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Questions about terrorism inevitably occur when discussing the Israel-Palestine issue. For Christians who support the cause of the Palestinian people’s search for justice and self determination in the land of their birth, these questions are even more prevalent.
The general narrative concerning Palestinian and Arab terrorism runs along the lines that it is motivated by religious extremism and blatant anti-Semitism. The Palestinian people’s legitimate grievance against the Zionist State of Israel is completely ignored as is the circumstances that they are forced to live under because of the illegal occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of the Gaza strip. The facts of history that testify to the origins of this conflict not being even remotely connected to some imaginary conflict between Islam and Judaism and that anti-Semitism never was part of elite or popular culture in the Arab world, as it was in Europe, are totally ignored. The oppressive policies of the State of Israel are given a pardon by the demand that it is actually the Palestinian leadership that is the cause of the Palestinian people’s plight.
The fact that the vast majority of Palestinians have never been involved in acts of terrorism but in fact resist their oppressors in a “Ghandi” like fashion is also overlooked.
In my opinion, the vast majority of acts of terrorism are driven by the despair, misery and sense of helplessness experienced by victims of oppression as non violent means of protest are seen to be useless as they are met with only increasing levels of oppression and violence by their oppressors. As despair deepens, the voices of extremism begin to seem like the only ones worth listening to. I believe this is the universal experience of humanity. All resistance movements act in ways that have integrity and in ways that do not. The Palestinian people are no different. While the U.N. has declared that the Palestinian people have the right to resist the illegal occupation of their homelands to the point of armed struggle, the use of terrorism has been denounced by Palestinian leaders and intellectuals as being unjust, immoral and counter productive, for many years. Palestinians have long accepted Israel’s right to exist in peace and security while the Zionist state has made no reciprocal statements about the RIGHT of a Palestinian homeland to exist.
The words of David Ben Gurion, the real founder of the Zionist State of Israel, ring true when talking about Jewish terrorism during the British Mandate period in Palestine:
“Two hundred and fifty thousand Jews of Tel Aviv and suburbs, core of country’s social and industrial life, and thirty thousands of Jews in Jerusalem, mostly working class quarters, isolated from all normal contact with outside world, facing complete breakdown of mechanism civilized life apart from food supplies and skeleton medical service. Industry crippled, trade paralysed, unemployment threatening to become catastrophic. Industrial raw materials cannot enter, goods manufactured with available stock cannot be marketed outside. Workers cut off from places of work, children from schools. These restrictions have not affected terrorists nor stopped their outrages but instead have increased resentment of hard-hit population, created fertile soil for terrorist propaganda, frustrating community’s attempt to combat terrorism by itself. Martial Law absolutely futile and senseless unless really meant to punish whole community, ruin its economy and destroy the foundations of the Jewish National Home.” (Cited in Finkelstein, 2003. p. xxxvi)
Here Ben Gurion passionately condemns the use of collective punishment (illegal under the Fourth Geneva convention of which Australia is a signatory) on the Jewish people for the acts of Zionist terrorists, and its ineffectiveness in combating further acts of terrorism in the future. An almost identical statement could be made concerning the citizens of Gaza today.
The Zionist state constantly condemns Palestinian acts of terror while only continuing to increase the measures which even David Ben Gurion clearly admits will only increase the likely hood of further terrorist attacks.
The government of Gaza was initially elected to power in elections that were declared free and fair by all the international organisations that monitored them. The ensuing blockade and demonisation of Hamas and the people of Gaza, which lead to Operation Cast Lead, has only consolidated the hold that Hamas has on Gaza and further opened the ears of young Palestinians in Gaza to the voices of those even more extreme than Hamas. The blockade of Gaza is no more about a true fight to rid the region from terrorism as the Separation Barrier in the West Bank is about security for Jews in Israel and the West Bank.
Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, Norman G. Finkelstein. Verso, 2003 (second edition)
ACTION FOR PALESTINE
Theology and Colonialism in the Israel-Palestine Conflict
In order to understand the particular historical narrative concerning the Israel-Palestine conflict that is adopted by Christian Zionists, we must understand the theological context that underpins the basic presuppositions of the Christian Zionist worldview regarding the Zionist State of Israel. The historical narrative adopted by Christian Zionists regarding this conflict is virtually identical to the Zionist colonialist mythology of the State of Israel, with very few exceptions. The reasons for this marriage between the sectarian Christian theology of Christian Zionism and secular Zionist mythology is that this union is an absolute necessity for Christian Zionists in order for them to justify the unconditional support they give the State of Israel. Christian Zionists must contend that their support for the Zionist state in no way contradicts the obvious mandate, in both Old and New Testaments of scripture, for God’s people to care for the oppressed and marginalised. For Christian Zionists to adopt the narrative of the conflict as espoused by scholars like Pappe, Finkelstein and the Palestinian people as a whole, would force them to admit that their theological stance regarding the Zionist State of Israel has lead them to a position of supporting outright oppression and injustice. Adopting such a position would lead to a faith crisis of cosmic proportions and so all measures are taken to avoid it.
Christian Zionists maintain that non-Jews have no entitlement to the land of Palestine regardless of how long they may have occupied the land and in whatever number. An Arab majority presence in Palestine is completely irrelevant. Jewish people own the land of Palestine and have an entitlement to it by virtue of their Jewishness alone. Hence the dispossession of Palestinian Arabs from their land of birth is not a crime, it is completely just. Palestinian Arabs occupy the land “illegally” in the minds of Christian Zionists regardless of how long they have been there or how great a majority they have been at any one time in the past, present or may be even in the future.
When the brutal reality of Palestinian dispossession confronts Christian Zionists, they often resort to arguments that amount to “blaming the victim”. The brutality of Arab dispossession is entirely the fault of the Arabs themselves since they were unwilling to welcome the Zionists or leave the land of their birth if they could not tolerate the new arrivals. Resistance to the Zionists is clear evidence of both their unwillingness to subject themselves to the will of God as well as their in born hatred of Jews. Since no injustice has been committed against the Palestinians, that is not ultimately their fault, any real compassion or desire to advocate for their position is unwarranted and against the will of God. All that is afforded them is a weak sentiment of sympathy that is ultimately extinguished by the self assertion of Christian Zionists that all would have been different if they had only agreed to self-dispossession. A corollary to this position is that the Arab leadership are really the ones to blame for the circumstances of Palestinians, not the Israelis. Whatever spin is adopted by the Christian Zionists, the final judgment must, and of necessity be, one that portrays the Israelis as being in the end without basic fault. When Christian Zionists get “squeamish” about the obvious oppression and unfairness of a minority imposing their wishes on the majority, they once again resort to the Zionist colonialist mythology to come to the rescue.
This Zionist mythology has some basic elements that are vital to Christian Zionism.
1. The land of Palestine was basically vacant before the Zionist migrations.
2. The continuous presence of Jews in Palestine for thousands of years, underscores the Jewish people’s entitlement to the land over and above the wishes of other inhabitants of Palestine. Arab migration into Palestine is “invalid” when “compared” to Jewish migration. Migration to Palestine by Arabs confers no concept of rights to self determination regardless of when it occurred.
3. Arabs had no real interest in Palestine until the Zionists made it into a land of “milk and honey”. Arabs had done “nothing with the land”.
4. The Balfour Declaration of 1917 was “miraculous” and gave legitimisation before the world community to the entitlement of Zionists to Palestine.
5. The 1948 War of Independence was “miraculous” as was the ‘voluntary flight” of thousands of Arabs from the newly created Israeli state in that same year. Hence there was no “ethnic cleansing” of Palestine. The Arabs left of their own free will and no foul was done to them by the Israelis as a whole.
6. All Israeli wars with Arab nations are therefore the result of pure anti-Semitism and have no basis in alleged injustices against Palestinians.
7. Arab nations have never wanted peace; they have deliberately sabotaged all attempts by the Israelis and their allies to create a lasting peace with the Palestinians.
8. The Six Day War of June 1967 was, once again, “miraculous” and evidence of the hand of Providence, legitimising the state of Israel’s existence.
9. Palestinian terrorism is entirely unprovoked and hence provides further evidence of their basic anti-Semitic tendencies.
10. The Israeli state is under constant threat of annihilation.
This mythology (every single point has been thoroughly and rigorously refuted by Jewish and Arab scholars) perfectly deflects any criticism thrown at Christian Zionists for their unconditional support of Israel. Hence there are no embarrassing facts of history that would lend credence to the idea that Christian Zionist theology leads to an unbiblical ethical stance towards Palestinian Arabs. Israel is “squeaky” clean and so is Christian Zionist theology. Any errors are only minor and of no ultimate consequence. Christian Zionists can lie in their beds with the assurance that they are righteous and justified in their determination to see Arabs dispossessed in Palestine.
Colonialist myths are designed to justify the “entitlement” of the colonial power in taking land that is basically not theirs. The basis for this entitlement can be a conflation of religious and non-religious ideas. Crimes against humanity, committed by the colonialists, are covered up and written out of the history books. In my own case I can testify how, when it came to Australian history, I was not taught of the massacres and dispossession of Australia’s previous inhabitants. Only the courage, hard work and sacrifice of the white settlers and pioneers was worthy of mention.
Jewish people growing up in Israel are likewise not told of the ethnic cleansing that was an integral part of the creation of the state of Israel. Christian Zionists have a vested interest in promoting the colonialist mythology of Zionism over and above the version of events as told by the Palestinian Arabs who have lived in the land for centuries. The Christian supporters of Israel are therefore not even remotely dispassionate and unbiased when “analysing” the historical evidence pertaining to the history of the Zionist state of Israel. Their view of this history is fundamentally coloured by their theological pre-suppositions. Until they can remove these pre-suppositions, their view of events will always be suspect.
It has been my experience that the findings of Israeli and Jewish scholars that take into account the Palestinians perspective are much more reliable. They often do this at great personal risk. They are the ones labeled “traitor” and “self hating Jew”. They suffer all the same persecutions suffered by anyone challenging the colonialist myths of their resident nations or people’s. They are the “whistle blowers” of history. They span political and religious denominations. Their concern is not to validate sectarian religious doctrines or to help the ruling class with their project to indoctrinate their citizens with nationalist propaganda. Their research stands on its own merits.