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Christian Zionism and Palestinian Christian Arabs.

A few months ago I spoke to a Christian Pastor whose family had fled to Gaza in 1948. I pulled him aside after his talk to ask him the truth about how Hamas treats Christians in Gaza. He told me that Hamas was not really the problem. The oppression experienced by Gazans at the hands of the Zionist government of Israel does not discriminate with regards to religious belief. Muslims, Christians and secular Arabs all share in the suffering in Gaza. The Pastor told me that he thought the blockade of Gaza and Operation Cast Lead had only consolidated Hamas’ hold on Gaza, and that there were now even  more extreme groups in Gaza than Hamas.

Any hope of removing Hamas by the same  process that Hamas was elected to power in 2006 has been destroyed. What the real intentions of the Israeli government in dealing with Gaza in the manner they have are a mystery to me. Here we are in 2011 and Hamas shows no sign of giving up its resistance to the Zionists.  Would Israel officially recognise the Palestinian peoples right to a state of their own with safe and secure borders if Hamas laid down its arms? Would Israel stop its construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank if Hamas recognised Israel? I don’t think so.


I saw a photograph of a Baptist church right next to a Mosque in Gaza on the net just yesterday. Apparently members of the respective religious groups are not at each others throats. If anyone persecutes the Christians of Gaza (apart from the Israelis) it is the wealthy Christian Zionists in the West who will not make a sound about the sufferings of their brethren. In my country, Pentecostal churches will give the stage of their mega-churches to the few misguided Arab Christians that take on the doctrines of Christian Zionism while ignoring the testimony of the tens of thousands of Arab Christians in Israel and the Occupied territories simply because their stories don’t conform to the narratives of Christian Zionism. We are meant to believe that Arabs persecute God’s people, not the other way around.

The racist attitude of Christian Zionists towards Arabs crosses religious barriers. Palestinian Arab Christians can not be trusted to tell the truth about issues like the ethnic cleansing in 1948 or even just the history of Arab occupation of Palestine in the last 150 years. Palestinian Arab Christians are second class citizens in God’s Kingdom. The only Arab Christian that tells the truth is one that is enlightened by the teachings of John Hagee. I am quite sure that many Muslim extremists think that the only good westerner is a Muslim westerner…maybe. But we all know that Christian Fundamentalists are nothing like Islamic Fundamentalists. Or are they?

A documentary is about to be released by the name of  “Pentecostals in Palestine.” The documentary follows the story of a group of pro-Israel Pentecostals who traveled to the West Bank to see for themselves the conditions that people are forced to live  under due to the military occupation of the Zionists. Though I have only seen a small portion of the footage of the doco, it seems that the group from the U.S. was greatly shocked by what they saw to the point of making some radical changes to their theology and politics. This is highly commendable in my opinion but one aspect of the documentary (and remember I have only seen promos of the whole documentary) that was a bit disturbing was that the Christians mainly changed their minds when they saw that there were large numbers of Arab Christians that were suffering as a result of the occupation. It seemed that the suffering of non-Christian Arabs in the occupied territories might not have been enough to sway the minds of these Christians. Still, I will have to wait until the documentary is finally released to make a final judgment. The point is that  Christian Zionists betray their brethren’s suffering in Palestine, and it seems that even when they do finally recognise the injustices that occur in the occupied territories, they still end up discriminating on the basis of religious belief even then. Why can we not show solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters in Palestine while at the same time recognise that the suffering and loss of non-Christian Palestinians (and Jews be they Zionist or not) is equally unjust and hurtful in God’s view?

If our theology leads us in a direction that causes us to become blind and deaf to the injustices that go on in our world, them our theology is flawed no matter how big, powerful and wealthy the church and Pastor is that is telling us these “Godly truths”.

Craig Nielsen                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              ACTION FOR PALESTINE

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The Legacy of Oppression in Palestine.

Supporters of the current policies of the Zionist State of Israel point to the situation in Gaza as proof as to why Israel can not afford to allow a Palestinian state of any kind to exist until the Palestinians somehow prove themselves to be worthy of such an honour.

They point to the brutality of Hamas militants and other extremists as justification for the oppressive policies of the Israeli state. “What else can Israel do?” they say. Such people seem to forget that self determination is a right, and a right is something you do not have to earn. What sort of behaviour do they think people will exhibit when their rights are continually denied? What behaviour did the Zionists themselves exhibit such that they earned the right to statehood in Palestine? Zionist terrorism in the British Mandate period (when Jews in Israel suffered the oppression of British policies that amounted to collective punishment against Jews) is well documented.

Was it the Holocaust that gave Zionists the right to self determination in Palestine? Do some people groups need to first become victims of atrocities before they are granted the same rights that we in the west take for granted? I think not.

Arab or Islamic extremists were not the cause of the Israel-Palestine conflict any more than the Black Panthers in the U.S. were responsible for the creation of slavery, discrimination and racism against Negroes in the U.S. or Aboriginal Land rights activists in Australia were responsible for the dispossession of Aboriginals in Australia that occurred at the hands of British colonialism. Nelson Mandela and the ANC were not responsible for the creation of Apartheid in South Africa.

Hamas and other Arab or Islamic extremists are the product of the Israel-Palestine conflict, not the cause of it. Those groups (with their hostility and violence towards Jewish people) simply did not exist before the advent of Zionist colonialism in Palestine. Religious Zionists who call for the extermination of Palestinian men, women and children did not exist then either. Those who do not grasp this fundamental reality will never make sense of the situation in the Middle East and hence will never understand the nature of any real solution.

What do we expect as a reasonable outcome of the conditions now experienced by the citizens of Gaza? A society under siege and cut off from the rest of the world. Do we really believe that such a situation is conducive to the creation of pacifism or democracy? Have such conditions anywhere else in the world been able to create such things? Conditions of despair and hopelessness make fertile soil for the voices of revenge and violence. Is anyone surprised that Gaza does not produce 1.5 million Zionists? Did Operation Cast Lead endear the citizens of Gaza to the state of Israel? Apparently not, yet the Zionist state is once again gearing up for another round of destruction in Gaza. Why do they think another episode of murdering Palestinian civilians will solve anything this time when it has clearly only strengthened the resolve of both moderates and extremists to continue to resist the Zionist state in the present?

If we do not approach the Israel-Palestine conflict with a sincere desire to listen to the basic, historic grievance of the Palestinian people, we can be assured that violence and horror will continue in this part of the world. What can Israel do? They can acknowledge the pain of the Palestinian people when they suffered the terrible dispossession of 1948. They can acknowledge the wrongs they have committed against the indigenous Arab population. They can stop perpetuating the odious lie that Israel was a land with no people for a people with no land. They can reciprocate the acknowledgment of the Palestinian people in 1993 that Israel has the right to exist with safe and secure borders. They can acknowledge the legitimacy of International Law that deems the occupation of the West Bank with its Jewish only settlements, Israeli only highways, checkpoints and separation barrier as being illegal. This would be a brilliant start and would not require Israel giving up once square metre of land that was not given to it by international law. I am certain such acknowledgments would bring a lasting peace within a very short period of time.

But Israel is drunk with power. Power that has been inflated by the continued empowerment of the U.S. and the west. And the powerful never just hand over their power; that would require a type of wisdom never seen by politicians. Anyone who empowers anyone else to commit crimes against humanity is no true friend, but is exploiting the other party just as surely as night follows day. The U.S. in reality is no friend of Israel.

The open-air prison that is Gaza will continue to fill the need for justification felt by the supporters of the Zionist state of Israel. The continued oppression of the Gazans will undoubtedly provoke some to violence and this violence will be used by the self righteous amongst us to say yes to yet more oppression of the 1.5 million inhabitants of that tiny piece of real estate. Sanity and humility must prevail. Put yourself in the shoes of the powerful, the ones who have the power to make real steps towards reconciliation and justice. What would you do? If you are a Christian…what would Jesus do?

Craig Nielsen
ACTION FOR PALESTINE

Zionist Apartheid and the Unconditional Embrace of God

Recently I asked a (Christian) man in his later years, who believes in the idea of unconditional support for Israel, whether or not Christians should have openly opposed and protested against Apartheid in South Africa. To my initial surprise, he answered that Christians should not have bothered, it was irrelevant, “just preach the Gospel”. Quickly I remembered that the Pentecostal Church in South Africa, staunchly Christian Zionist in its doctrines, had very little to say about Apartheid in that country that was negative. My attitude of surprise started to drift towards one of frustration and then resignation over the state of the understanding of social justice issues amongst many conservative Christians. A month or two ago, Glen Beck, a well known media personality and Religious Right advocate in the U.S., advised Christians in America to abandon their church congregation if it was even starting to display an interest in social justice issues.

With regard to the issue of Apartheid and Israel, I was deeply affected when I found out that both Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, men who have had extensive experience living under a system of Apartheid in their homeland, have declared, upon visiting Israel and the Occupied Territories, that the policies of the Zionist State of Israel towards the Palestinian Arab population are examples of Apartheid. Documentation of the discrimination experienced by Arabs in Israel and the Occupied Territories is vast to say the least. For anyone wishing to read a very accessible guide to this issue, I recommend Ben White’s Israeli Apartheid: A Beginners Guide.

The most obvious symbol of this Apartheid regime is the “Separation Barrier” in the West Bank. Supporters of Israel are quick to demand that the decision to build the wall was forced upon Israel by the behaviour of the Palestinians, the suicide bombers in particular. They point to the fact that the suicide bombings have stopped since the wall’s construction as justification for the wall’s existence. The wall is fundamentally a security issue for Israelis. The lack of security felt by most Israelis that persists to this day is also evidence that the wall has also not brought any feelings of reconciliation between Arab and Jew in Israel either.

The claim that the wall is for security reasons requires deeper analysis. While regrettable, it is perfectly reasonable for someone to erect a barrier between themselves and a second party with whom they simply can not get along with to the point of violent confrontation. Everyone has a right to protect themselves. This is not the issue. We can easily imagine a scenario whereby two neighbours involved in a bitter dispute, that has led to violence,agree to erect a wall along the boundary line that divides the property of both parties. But when that wall, erected by the most powerful party in the dispute, is created in such a way that it invades into the very territory of the other neighbour, thereby including members of the family of this alleged foe on the side of the fence containing the property of the party that built the wall, we have to wonder about whether the wall has been erected as a pretense for something else.

Further to this, if the neighbour who built the fence also pays members of his own family to go and live on the other side of the fence on the property of those whom he say he feels unsafe from, then our confidence that the wall was made for security reasons crumbles. This scenario in fact mirrors that situation in Israel-Palestine today. Over 200,000 Palestinians in the West Bank live on the “Israel side” of the Wall and Israel offers lucrative incentives for Jewish people to live on the other side of the barrier. The barrier separates Arab from Arab, puts allegedly “dangerous Arabs” on the Israel side of the wall and the government of Israel actively encourages Jews to live amongst these “hateful Palestinians”. I simply do not believe the justification given for the barrier by the supporters of Zionism in Israel. I think many Israelis find it equally hard to justify but somehow the insecurity they generally feel outweighs common sense. Ilan Baruch, the Israeli diplomat who recently resigned because he could no longer justify the policies of the current Israeli government regarding the occupation of the West Bank, is very much in the minority.

It is also well known that since the separation barrier is only 58% complete, it is relatively easy for Palestinians in the West Bank to travel to Israel illegally. The use of suicide bombers was thankfully repudiated by Hamas in 2006. This was far more due to a change in strategy than the existence of the wall. It seems that Hamas has seen that is far more profitable to Islamisize the citizens of Gaza than involve them in suicide bombing. The separation barrier is part of a strategy which includes the illegal settlements, checkpoints and Israeli only highways (all of which violate international law) which seek to further marginalise and oppress the Palestinian people, provoking them to further frustration and unfortunately even to the point of violence in a minority of instances.

Israel is a Zionist State, a state owned by Jews for Jews, as defined by the State of Israel. Whereas most governments are chosen by the people, in the case of Israel, the people are chosen by the government. Israel is a state for Jewish people in a way that it can never be for non-Jews. Israel may be able to afford a measure of human rights for Arabs but it can never afford equal rights between Arab and Jew in Israel. In the Occupied Territories, the situation has been described as “Apartheid on steroids”.

In 1989, The Israeli Supreme Court made a ruling about candidates and parties running for election in Israel. It ruled that the Central Elections Committee may prevent a candidates’ list from participating in elections if its objectives or actions, expressly or by implication endorse the negation of the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people. What this means is that for anyone to participate in Israel’s “democracy” one must renounce the idea that Israel should be a democracy, that is, a state for all its people. The notion that any state that is a democracy should of necessity be a state for all its people, is commonly accepted as the minimal requirement for a state to be declared democratic. If an Islamic state is deemed intrinsically to be undemocratic, then so must a Jewish State.

The state sanctioned inequality of rights between Jew and Arab in Palestine inevitable leads to oppression of the less privileged.

I can not help but be reminded of the demands of the Torah.

Ex 22:21 “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.

Eze 47:21 “You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel.
Eze 47:22 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.
Eze 47:23 In whatever tribe the alien settles, there you are to give him his inheritance,” declares the Sovereign LORD.

God’s intention in the land of Israel was for equality between Jew and non-Jew in accordance with the truth that God’s love and concern is for all people’s of the world. Whereas the Holocaust of Pharaoh was used as a means ( in scripture) to encourage Jews to specifically ensure that non-Jews in Israel were not oppressed, the Holocaust of the Nazis is used by the Zionists as a means to ensure that Jews do not suffer a similar fate in the future (a noble goal) but in a manner that ignores the oppression of non-Jews that is an inevitable consequence of the Zionist answer to the Jewish question.

In the end, the Torah’s authority will outlast the dogmas of Zionism however well intentioned they may seem at the moment to the supporters of Israel.

Craig Nielsen
ACTION FOR PALESTINE

Terrorism

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.

Ref
Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, Norman G. Finkelstein. Verso, 2003 (second edition)

Craig Nielsen
ACTION FOR PALESTINE

Israel-Palestine: A Christian Response to the Conflict

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