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When representatives of the Zionist State of Israel are asked by the media regarding what it is that Israel ultimately wants, the answer inevitably is that all they want is peace. All they want is a place where Jews can live in peace.

Any half reasonable person would have to validate that answer as a good and decent thing for anyone to want, let alone a people who had just recently suffered the horrors of the Holocaust.

But while that may be the reality so far as what the Zionist State wishes for it’s (Jewish) citizens, it is the way that they are going about reaching this goal that is so offensive to any reasonably minded person. If we unpack Israel’s desire for peace we find that this goal contains three basic goals within it.

The first of these goals is that Israel be a Zionist State. Zionism is an ideology whose goal it is to transform Jewish identity away from its historic roots in Torah Judaism into a secular nationalistic identity like the European nation states of the last century. As a Zionist state, Israel desires to be a Jewish state in that it is a state that belongs to the Jewish people in a way than non-Jews living in Israel can never attain to. As it stands, Israel has some fifty laws that discriminate between Jews and non-Jews living in Israel, in favour of Jews.

Secondly, Israel wants to be a democracy. This is a very controversial point as the reality of the situation is that Israel is really only a democracy for Jews in Israel. In effect, Israel has four systems of law for the people that it rules over in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. The first is the system of democracy for Jews who live in Israel and the settlements in the West Bank. The second system is for Palestinian citizens of Israel that are clearly discriminated against even though they have voting rights and can be members of Parliament. If this were not so, then in what way could it be said that Israel was a Jewish state? The very demand for Israel to be a Jewish state inevitably creates discrimination against non-Jews living in Israel. By any other name, this is racism. The third system is for Palestinians living in the West Bank. They live under the extremely harsh rule of the Israeli military. The fourth system is really no system at all. This system relates to the Gaza Strip, which Israel declares as an “enemy entity”. As such, Gazan’s are persona non grata. Israel considers itself free to treat the Gaza Strip in anyway it sees fit with no recourse to International Law in any way.

Thirdly, Israel wants territory. At the moment it desires to be in control of 100% of historic Palestine.

The problem is that Israel simply can’t have all three of these things at once. If Israel annexes the West Bank and Gaza, then it will somehow have to incorporate millions more Palestinians into the greater state of Israel. It really has only two choices of how to do this. One, it gives Palestinians equal voting rights as Jews. This would put the whole Zionist nature of the state in jeopardy. This is because Palestinians would have electoral power because of their increased numbers. Palestinians would have a chance of having an Arab political party in power and they would inevitably overturn the Zionist nature of the state. The alternative is that they do not give equal voting rights to the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza and Israel would officially become an Apartheid state. This situation would be intolerable in the sense of support from the International community, even the U.S.

In 1948, The Zionists ethnically cleansed nearly 800,000 Palestinians from their homes. This was done so that the newly created Jewish state would have a Jewish majority. Soon after this, Israel instituted laws that gave any Jewish person in the world the right to come to Israel while at the same time it forbade the return of any Palestinians to their former homes. This meant that the state of Israel now had a means of having a permanent Jewish majority within its borders. It was only after Palestinian resistance in Israel had been effectively crushed, that, in 1967, Palestinians in Israel were given voting rights. This ensured that even though Palestinians could vote in Israeli elections, they would never have enough numbers to have any real electoral power.

It is the demand of Israel that they succeed in all these three goals that is the cause of violence in this dispute. Israel does want peace, but in endeavours to get peace in a way that will never obtain it because it continually creates injustice for Palestinians. Without justice, peace has no chance.

CRAIG NIELSEN

January 2019

 

 

It’s probably pretty accurate to say that most traditional marriage ceremonies in this country have some part of the marriage vows that include a statement about forsaking all others and being faithful to their partner.

Many young people hope, or believe, that when a person gets married they will no longer have romantic feelings or feel sexually attracted to any other than their spouse. Older heads realise that this just isn’t the case no matter how much you feel that you are in love when you get married. It is because of the fact that people feel attraction and feelings of love for others they are not married to that such marriage vows are even needed. The simple fact is that God allows people to be unfaithful in their marriages. This is obviously not because we believe God endorses such behaviour, but that God places responsibility on faithfulness in marriage on our shoulders while still being sovereign over His creation. If God had promised that somehow, He would never let Christian couples fall into the sin of unfaithfulness in marriage, then we wouldn’t need to make such vows at all!

It follows that we only need make vows regarding things that are actually possible to even occur in our world and conversely, vows to not commit any particular sin presuppose the possibility that such a sin can occur in reality.

I mention all this to make a point that Christian Zionists seem to stubbornly ignore.

The conditional nature of the relationship between Jewish people as a whole, and the Promised Land is explicitly and implicitly stated in scripture in so many places, and is an essential part of so many Biblical narratives that its denial is both incomprehensible and unacceptable. I have covered this point in my book, as well as so many of my posts, that I won’t bother going through it here.

In 130 AD, a tumultuous event occurred in the history of the Jewish people. After many years of brutal occupation of their land by a Pagan Roman empire, which they sorely resented and resisted in various forms for many decades, the Roman Emperor decided that the Kingdom of Israel be destroyed and its people scattered to the four corners of the Earth. Orthodox Judaism has traditionally seen this as an act of God, sending the Jewish people into exile. This exile continues up until this day. No Jewish Rabbi of any type has, or would, declare the Exile to be over. According to Orthodox Judaism, exile is a spiritual, rather than political or military problem and hence requires a spiritual solution. The solution would be the coming of the Messiah. This would be a supernatural event that would bring in the redemption of all God’s creation, not just the re-instalment of Jews in the Promised Land.

In 130 AD, the Rabbis of the time made oaths concerning their return to the promised land that were eventually recorded in the book known as the Talmud. The Talmud is a religious text that most Christians are not familiar with. It is central to Rabbinic Judaism and the primary source for Jewish religious law and theology.

The content of the oaths boils down to the fact that Jews vowed not to return to the promised land on mass, to create a Jewish state. They should not even try to bring this return about whether it be by force or diplomacy. They should not enter the land even if it were completely empty and or even if all the Kings, Queens and rulers of the Earth gave permission or even demanded it! They also vowed not to stir the nations up to persecute them and that the nations not persecute them.

Orthodox Judaism has taken these oaths very seriously for many centuries. It was Zionists, not Orthodox Jews, who initiated the creation of the State of Israel as it is today. Jewish law forbade such endeavours. It was even forbidden to pray too loudly or too fervently for the exile to finish lest anyone think that their efforts brought about the end of the Exile. The Exile was to be ended by God and God alone! No attempt was to be made to retake the land even in the face of harsh persecution. Jewish people were to remain in Exile as loyal and law -abiding subjects of their country of  exile. The traditional means of dealing with anti-Semitic persecution was to seek refuge in other countries of exile where other Jews could offer them safe haven.

The point that I am trying to make is that the very existence of these vows presupposes that Jews could, in fact, not only attemptto take control of the Promised Land illegitimately, but they could actuallytake control of it illegitimately. If God had somehow promised that such an action would never be allowed, then two things must follow. The first is that no such vows should have ever been taken, let alone them being put in the Talmud and secondly that any attempt, successful or not, of Jews taking control of the Promised Land must be endorsed by God and hence a fulfilment of prophecy.

The simple fact is that these vows were taken and have been a pillar of Jewish Law and theology and hence are not contradictory to any teachings of the Old Testament. Hence, they do not contradict New Testament teachings either.

The following statements can be made with full confidence from a Biblical perspective that I believe all Christian Zionists must agree with.

The entrance and occupation of Jewish people into the Promised Land in order to take control of it is conditional upon their obedience to the clearly stated commands of God in the Old Testament. Many of these statements relate to the fair and equal treatment of non-Jews living in the land with them. It is clear that oppression of non-Jews living in the Promised Land can result in the expulsion of Jews from the land.

The mere fact of the current occupation, or partial occupation, of the Promised Land by the Zionist regime is in no way an automatic sign of God’s endorsement of the Israeli State.

Israel is a Zionist State, a secular state that has, from its inception, sort to transform Jewish Identity from its traditional roots in the Torah, and hence the Bible, to a secular national identity so as to be “as the nations” surrounding them. While Zionism repudiated the Judaism of old, it does not embrace the Christian faith either.

Palestinians have a long history of respect and co-operation with the Jews of the Promised Land before the current Zionist era. Before the Zionist era, Jews and Arabs had good relations in the Middle East. Antisemitism was never a part of popular or elite culture in the Middle East. Christian Europe has always been the home of antisemitism and European nations bare responsibility for the Holocaust, not Arabs, be they Muslim, Christian or otherwise.

The above statements make it clear that no Christian has any absolute Biblical obligation to support the Zionist State of Israel or claim it to be the result of the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham or any New Testament prophecy.

CRAIG NIELSEN

December 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having been one myself for a number of years, it suffices to say that conservative Christians fascinate me.

Most secular and non-Christian people wrongly associate conservative Christian faith with some sort of Fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is then connected to a type of Biblical literalism which often includes ideas like Six-day Creationism, Premillennialism and the Rapture and a general belief in the miraculous stories of the Bible as literal, real historical events.

This categorisation of Christians overlooks a large amount of important theological distinctions that exist between conservative Christians. The real unifying factor for these types of Christians is really not their theology. When it comes to issues like Creationism, the End Times, Biblical miracles, Justification by Faith, Predestination or the Eucharist, conservatives can argue with each other just as intensely and divisively as anyone. Conservatives are equally likely to be Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox. They can be Baptists, Lutherans, Uniting Church, Methodist, Church of England or Pentecostal. Left wing, liberal or progressive Christians can also be found in all these denominations as well.

In my opinion, being a conservative Christian is far more about one’s politics rather than one’s theology. Their conservative politics often seems to be far more important to them than Biblical theology. Let me explain what I mean.

Biblically speaking, a person’s confession of Christ as God, Lord and Saviour, has long been seen as a major issue in deciding if any given person is a Christian or not. Of course, this confession needs to be heart felt and accompanied by repentance from sin. But it seems that for conservative Christians, this is often a side issue. I passionately believe that Jesus died for me on the cross and shed His blood as a covering for my sin. I believe that He is God, come in the flesh, the only begotten Son of God the Father and that He was bodily raised from the dead. I am saved by grace alone by the death and resurrection of Christ.

Yet I can hardly count the number of times that my faith has been denounced, even though I have made this confession publicly on many occasions. This denunciation has always come from conservative believers and normally for the same reason. That reason is nearly always related to my lack of allegiance to the Zionist State of Israel and my support for Palestinian human rights and justice. I’m seen as a deluded backslider at best, satanic infiltrator at worst.

Many others, who make similar confessions with regards to Jesus, have received the same treatment. Their issue may not have anything to do with Palestine. It maybe that they support gay and lesbian rights, abortion rights, believe in climate change due to human industry, denounce US imperialism, racism, sexism and fight for equality, workers and human rights and, in the worst-case scenario, support the demon of Socialism! All of these are basically recognised as the domain of leftists and liberals. They advocate for justice and mercy for Muslims and any minority group in general that you can think of.

Any of the above can earn you the title of non-follower of Christ, by conservatives regardless of any confession of Christ as Saviour, no matter how heart felt you feel your conviction is.

Conservative Christians are united by their conservative politics and allegiance to conservative and right-wing political parties like the Republican Party in the US, the Conservative Party in the UK and the Liberal/National Party Coalition in Australia. Many times, I have felt that their conservative politics is far more important to them than their Christianity.

I know that in my own case, I felt that the Christian faith was innately conservative. In some ways I still believe that this is true. Christians seek to conserve, or preserve the original essence of the faith as God revealed it to humanity in the first place. While Christian theology has clearly developed over the centuries, it is generally agreed that it cannot develop in such a way as to contradict the original concepts of the faith. It cannot progress beyond a certain limit. In this sense Christianity is conservative by nature. Finding out what these limits are, however, is another question entirely. It’s an endeavour that is far easier said than done in practice.

I long felt that somehow conservative politics owned the Christian faith with its conservative moral values. While liberals and progressives might have some interesting points to make, the real home of Christianity, politically speaking, was right-wing conservatism. Christian values would be safer in the hands of conservative governments.

I’ve since come to believe that this view is both un-Biblical and quite naïve. I think the best example that demonstrates the truth of this is the case of Palestinian Christianity. When I first got involved in the Christian faith I was told that I had many hundreds of millions of brothers and sisters in the faith all around the world. I thought that in the end, there must be some type of solidarity between Christians regardless of their theological differences. It wasn’t long before I started reading a bit of church history and finding out that this was far from the case. But at least I thought Christian faith would tie people together despite their political differences!

But the case of Palestinian Christianity blows this sky high. Conservative Christians, especially in the US, dominate the ranks of Christian Zionists. They passionately believe that it is their religious duty to unconditionally support the Zionist State of Israel in its project to colonise the region known as historic Palestine. These Christians have no pity for the Muslim people who have suffered due to this Zionist project, after all, they’re only Muslims! Enemies of God to be sure! Justice for Muslims in the Israel/Palestine conflict is a contradiction in terms.

But you would think it might be a different thing altogether when it comes to the case of Palestinian Christians. Palestinian Christians are Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic. They are Lutheran, Church of England, Baptist and even Pentecostal. Yet their cries to conservative Christians in the West about injustice and oppression perpetrated on them by the Zionist State of Israel gets completely ignored. Not an ounce of solidarity exists. Every year, the heads of the Palestinian Christian denominations make their suffering known to the Western conservative church via means like the Kairos Document and numerous conferences and meetings. All this gets ignored. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of Christian Palestinians in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza recognise that their oppressor is the Zionist State of Israel, (not Muslim Palestinians). The voices of one hundred and seventy thousand Palestinian Christians are ignored, while the voice of one Palestinian convert to Christianity that supports Christian Zionism is heralded around the world in every Christian bookshop you can find!

In 2015, I went to the West Bank to observe this myself. I lived for 3 months in a conservative Muslim village in the West Bank as part of a program ran by the World Council of Churches. The program was called for by the Jerusalem heads of churches, (all of which are Palestinian). They wanted there to be a continuous western presence in the West Bank to observe the reality of the oppression that is the occupation. This program has had a continuous presence all over the West Bank for some 20 years now. Many of the people who have participated in this program have been from conservative Christian backgrounds like myself. We met Palestinian Christians who have visited the west only to find that their Christian faith was denounced when they owned up to being an Arab Christian that doesn’t support the dispossession of their own people by a secular state like Israel.

What motivates conservative Christians is not simply stated. To say that it is their theological beliefs, however much that they proclaim that it is, is still too simplistic. It is obvious that their political beliefs inform their conservative theology and vice versa. An uncomfortable fact for conservatives is that virtually no professional theologians in the English-speaking world endorse Christian Zionism. It is utterly bereft of any rational Biblical support but this seems to make almost no impact on them whatsoever.

Conservative Christians in the US routinely herald any President that seems to come from the right-wing as God’s man of the hour, come to save the world from judgement regardless of how immoral their actions might be on a personal level. Australian conservative Christians are often not far behind them.

When the excesses of a conservative President are finally brought to the public eye, the American public are reminded of their Christian duty not to judge, but to support their leader! But God have mercy on a non-conservative President, regardless of any professed Christian faith! God must be a Republican…surely?

So many conservative Christian friends of mine bemoan our secular, godless state with its permissive values. One particular sore point is the acceptance, by ultimately both political parties, of gay and lesbian marriage rights. Criticism of this judgement comes thick and fast from conservative pulpits. Yet the Zionist State of Israel has plans to follow this path. One of the reasons that the State of Israel says that it should be supported by the western world is its tolerance of gays and lesbians in contrast to the conservative values of Muslim countries.

Apparently these liberal, progressive values are all ok in a secular Israeli State, but deserve wrath and condemnation in our own western countries. It seems that the only duty of Israel is to take all of the land into its possession and sovereign control. Anything else it may do is irrelevant. This backflip on the moral values of God’s chosen people is hard to justify Biblically, but once again is not even acknowledged by conservative Christians in the west.

My belief is that Christianity is not owned by either side of the political divide. We are free to accept or reject political ideas without fear of abandoning God’s own political party. God’s politics don’t conform to the ideology of any political party, nor does His politics encourage us to turn a blind eye to the corruption and injustices perpetrated by those that we perceive as being our political friends. Nor does it prevent us from listening and learning from those whom we traditionally feel are not the friends of the faith. We are free to listen and to learn from anyone. Free to use our own God given reason and our knowledge of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as revealed in the scriptures with humility.

Unfortunately, conservative Christians are greatly in error when they unconditionally support the State of Israel with regard to its policies towards the Palestinian people. This does not mean that conservatives have nothing positive to offer or that progressives have all the answers. For Christians, humility and the mercy and justice of God for all humanity is our eternal duty. Amen.

CRAIG NIELSEN

December 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian Zionists, as well as religious Zionists in Israel and throughout the world, believe that Jewish people have an absolute entitlement to the lands of Israel including the occupied territories (OPT).

They claim that this fact is unambiguously stated in the Bible and can be seen to be so by anyone who bothers to take the time to read the Old Testament scriptures. They believe this fact is so clearly and obviously proclaimed that it is indeed a dividing line between those who honour God’s word and those who don’t.

Anyone declaring that the Israeli settlements are illegal, no matter what legal arguments are used to defend such a position, are denounced as being in league with Satan. The very concept of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Gaza or the Golan Heights is a contradiction in terms. The recent denial of the illegal status of Israeli settlements in the OPT by the current US administration has been met with rapturous approval by Christian Zionists the world over. This would be seen as further proof, as if any were needed, that the US is indeed God’s instrument on Earth in worldly affairs.

Any protests against Israeli settlements are met with accusations of anti-Semitism and racism against Jews. The spectre of Nazi Germany is quickly invoked to demonise anyone even thinking about Palestinian rights. Palestinians rights are the rights of the devil!

I well remember once telling an avid Christian supporter of Israel that Palestinian Christians didn’t share his view of Zionist entitlement. His only answer was a sarcastic, “Have they read their Bible?”

A “no concession” policy is rigorously held to by Christian Zionists when it comes to any type of negotiations with Palestinians. After all, you don’t negotiate with the devil!

But the simple fact remains that the settlements ARE illegal under the clear and reasonable demands of International Law, and the concept of illegal Israeli settlements, within the bounds of what is considered “the promised land”, is completely compatible with scripture and the justice and mercy of God as revealed in both Testaments of the Bible. I believe it is not only compatible with, but is indeed demanded by those same scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation.

My defence of this position is based on a two-pronged argument:

  1. The Bible does not teach that Jewish people, simply by virtue of their Jewishness,

have an absolute and unconditional entitlement to the “Promised Land”. Jewish

occupation of the land can indeed be illegitimate in God’s eyes.

  1. International Law on this issue is completely compatible with God’s will for how

nations should deal with each other and hence it’s clear dictates need to be

respected by ALL Christians who claim to believe in the rule of law.

I will start with a defence of point one.

From the very first instances in scripture, when God promised the Land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants, we see that the relationship of the Promised Land (TPL) to the Jewish people was conditional. God delayed Abraham’s taking of TPL by some hundreds of years so as to make sure that no injustice was done to the people then occupying the land. It was not until God judged the people in the land as being guilty of innumerable sins and hence needing to be justly removed from the land that Abraham’s descendants were allowed to enter TPL.

But even then, as the scriptures clearly tell us, there was no unconditional entitlement of Jews to enter the land. We see that even Moses, hardly a more prominent Jewish person could there have been, was not allowed to enter TPL. The most obvious question to be asked is, “Why wasn’t he allowed to enter?” Even a cursory glance at the text shows that it was his behaviour that was the key reason that he was barred from entering TPL, and this provides us with the basis for the whole concept of the totally conditional nature of the Jewish people’s relationship to the land.

God indeed made a covenant with the Jewish people in that the only way that they could legitimately enter and occupy the land was that they faithfully obey the commands of God. Many of these commands relate to how they treat non-Jews living in the land with them. The punishment for disobedience with regards to this issue was expulsion from the land.

Every orthodox Jew in history will tell you that the occupation of the land for Jews is tied up with the concepts of redemption and exile. Jews are currently in a state of exile and are therefore forbidden to try and take control of the land. No Jewish Rabbi anywhere in the world would dare declare that the exile is over! So, if that be true, how is it that the State of Israel is in existence with half the world’s Jews living there?

The answer is that the responsibility for the creation of the State of Israel was in the hands of Zionists, not Jews who were faithful to the Torah and its traditional teachings about exile, redemption and the coming of the Messiah. Orthodox Judaism had taken oaths, as far back as 130 AD, to never even try and take TPL even if all the rulers of the Earth commanded it, even if the land itself was empty, even if it did not involve any kind of violence whatsoever.

Exile was a spiritual problem and required a spiritual, not military or even diplomatic, solution.

Scripture clearly relates that the Jewish people are God’s tenants, not landlords in TPL. If they do not obey God’s covenant with them, they will be expelled from the land, just like any other nation or people that defiled the land. Their Jewishness would not confer any special privileges for them if they were disobedient. If anything, it made them more accountable. God’s covenant with Abraham would not mean that they could unconditionally enter and occupy the land. Being in exile would not, however, make the covenant with Abraham void. This covenant was still in operation regardless of whether the Jewish people were in exile or not. Exile came when the Mosaic covenant was broken by the Jewish people while in the land. The Mosaic covenant could be broken but the covenant of God with Abraham could not. God would never give up on the Jewish people no matter how many times He had to cast them from the land. Orthodox Jewish tradition holds that this expulsion has already occurred twice. The end of the current exile will be heralded by the miraculous coming of the Messiah and not before. This event will come in God’s sovereign time.

God’s command that Jews treat the “alien”, (non-Jew) in the land fairly and justly and as an equal, stems from the fact that when Israel was in bondage as slaves to Egypt, God stood up for them against the oppressor and gave them freedom. In scripture God continually reminds the Jews to remember how they were slaves in Egypt and in doing so therefore do not oppress the non-Jews living amongst them. Failure to do this would bring consequences to the Jews almost too horrible to think of!

So, the question can legitimately be asked, “Is the Zionist regime in Israel legitimately occupying TPL?” The simple fact of their confessed Jewishness is not sufficient, regardless of any claims about fulfilled prophecy. End times prophecy can never be twisted in such a way so as to negate the righteous demands of God for the descendants of Abraham to live up to their obligations to God with regards to their relationship to the land. A secular Zionist state does not get a free pass any more than Moses did!

I will now move on to my second point:

The basis of the United Nations Charter and International Law with regards to how nations should deal with one another is grounded in the desire to avoid violent conflict and oppression by powerful nations over less powerful nations. This is clearly stated in the concept of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by means of force. This acquisition of territory in order to gain access to living space, resources or anything else by force is seen as the main motivation for armed conflict in our world. Making this type of acquisition of land illegal, by any nation, is a clear a deterrent for conflict between nations by removing the legitimacy of the very motivation for conflict.

This is obviously a good idea, and I see nothing in this that is somehow innately anti-Semitic or against God’s word. Whether or not this concept has been applied fairly and consistently is another matter entirely.

We need to remember that all members of the United Nations must sign on to this principal. Australia, the US, Israel, Canada and the UK have all signed on to this principal as a matter of law.

In 1947, the United Nations created a partition plan that gave the Zionists 55% of historic Palestine for the creation of a Jewish state and 45% of the land to the Arabs for the creation of a Palestinian state. The Zionists accepted this plan. The current regions known as Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights were not part of the land that was given to the Zionists in the 1947 partition plan. These regions are currently under Israeli control since they entered these areas by force in 1967. As such they are under Israeli military occupation.

The validity or fairness of this partition plan will not be dealt with here. At this stage it suffices to say that the Zionist State is in control of lands that it acquired by means of military force and is holding onto these regions by military force as well, despite the fact that International Law and UN Resolutions have demanded Israel’s ending of the occupation way back in 1967.

The Fourth Geneva Convention, of which all member states of the United Nations must sign on to, clearly states that no occupying power may transfer any of its population into the areas being occupied. Israel has clearly been in breach of this since 1967 when it started building Israeli only settlements in both the West bank and Gaza. It entices Israeli citizens to come and live in the OPT with significant financial incentives. These settlements are fully integrated into the rest of the state of Israel via Israeli only highways that connect the settlements back to greater Israel. Palestinians are forbidden to travel on these roadways.

The Israeli government rejects this judgement based on the fact that they do not consider the OPT to be occupied and hence International Law does not apply. This idea is based on the fact that the West Bank and Gaza had no official governance at the time of the 1967 War and so International Law does not apply.

This judgement has been rejected by the entire international community. The issue of governance is not the point. The fact is that Israel has gained access to territory by means of force. This territory was not granted to any Israeli government in the 1947 partition plan that the Zionists did agree with. That territory was inhabited by a people who did not identify as Jewish and hence are not represented by any Zionist government.

The Israeli settlements in the West Bank have been judged as illegal right from the start and this decision has been reviewed and verified on numerous occasions since then by the best legal minds in the world. This judgement is firmly based in International Law.

From the above we can see that the Israeli settlements are clearly in breach of International Law and that International Law in this particular context is neither anti-Semitic or un-Biblical.

It is possible, and I would say, highly likely, that God respects and agrees with the judgement that the Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal.

CRAIG NIELSEN

December 2019

 

People often ask me why the Israel-Palestine issue has gone on unresolved for so long. Before I can even get out a word, there is no shortage of people who want to interject and offer their own analysis. It seems that the least someone has done, in so far as researching the issue, the more certain they are that their answer is the correct one. “They’re born to hate!  (referring to the Arabs)” is a common answer. Somehow our media has taught some people that if you come from the Middle East, particularly if you are a Muslim, it means that you have an ingrained and irrational view of the world that makes you despise the idea of raising your family in peace and security, all for the sake of Jihad! That is, war for the sake of war!

“They’re all terrorists, and no one can negotiate with terrorists! It’s obvious, anyone with eyes and a brain can see the sense in that argument” That’s how the so called enlightened western view of the conflict is told.

Blaming religious belief is by far the most common and convenient excuse to dismiss all hope of peace and resign oneself to inaction and apathy about any cause for peace and reconciliation.

My own understanding, being born mostly from the experience of having lived in the West Bank for three months, has been confirmed by the analysis of dozens of academics and observers from all over the world. It is the ever-encroaching cancer of “Facts on the Ground” that perpetuate the violence, mistrust and injustice that keeps the fires of the conflict burning.

By facts on the ground, I am referring to not only the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, but the whole infrastructure put in place by the Zionist State to facilitate the ever widening takeover of land that was set aside for the Palestinian state, and the continuing stranglehold on Palestinian life that makes it more and more difficult for Palestinians to live in their lands every day. These facts on the ground increase every day and affect the lives of all Palestinians in the West Bank. All these facts on the ground violate International Law and UN resolutions. The case that these facts on the ground violate International Law has been verified time and time again by the ICJ, as well as just about every legal authority that has ever bothered to look at the issue.

The permanency of these facts on the ground is made completely obvious when one visits the West Bank for example. The settlements aren’t structures that someone could dismantle in a day, the way Palestinian homes and structures are commonly destroyed by Israeli armoured tanks. Everywhere I went I saw Palestinian infrastructure being strangled or just plain destroyed while the Israeli settlements, Israeli only highways, checkpoints and of course the “security barrier”, remain standing or increase in size and scope.

The situation for Palestinians is intolerable. I can not imagine the frustration that I would feel if something had been done to me, and was still being done to me, that every law court in the land declared was illegal, and yet no one was doing a thing to bring those committing those acts against me to justice. Rather it was me who was considered to be the criminal even for just peacefully protesting about the injustice of my situation.

The facts on the ground continue to both aid the oppression of Palestinians and facilitate in them an ever-growing sense of despair with the so-called rule of law and the International Justice system. This despair leads some to resist the Israeli occupation by means which have no integrity. These are acts of terrorism and, as a Christian, as a human being, I can only condemn those acts with the same fervour that I condemn the acts by the Israeli government that provoke those Palestinians to violence in the first place.

History tells me that Palestinians in the Holy Land had long been friends with their Jewish neighbours until the Zionist colonialist project begun. With an openly stated plan to dispossess the Arabs of Palestine, be they Christian, Muslim or secular, in order to make way for the creation of a Jewish state with a permanent Jewish majority, it is the actions of the Zionists, I believe, that were responsible for provoking the conflict in the first place. The negligence of the international community, especially the US, Australia, Canada and Great Britain, in not enforcing International Law and UN resolutions to stop the creation of the above-mentioned facts on the ground, is responsible for it’s non-resolution

Craig Nielsen

Stephen Sizer has recently posted an interesting article on his blog contradicting the much loved narrative of the supporters of Zionist Israel that tells us that Iran wishes to wipe Israel off the map. The original article appeared at…

http://www.richardsilverstein.com/tikun_olam/2012/04/16/meridor-concedes-irans-leaders-have-never-called-for-israels-destruction/

Israeli Minister Meridor Concedes Iran’s Leaders Have Never Called for Israel’s Destruction

In an Al Jazeera interview, one of the more moderate ministers in the current government, Dan Meridor, conceded that a notorious phrase widely attributed to Iran’s leaders including Pres. Ahmadinejad, that Iran would wipe Israel from the map, is false.  Though Meridor, a senior cabinet member in the Netanyahu ruling coalition, believes that Iranian statements about Israel being a cancer in the region are equally distressing to Israel, he acknowledged that neither of Iran’s current leaders had ever called for destroying Israel.  That of course, didn’t prevent him from lapsing back into precisely the same claim not once, but twice later in the interview.  It seems that some tropes are so engraved in a nation’s consciousness that a politician can intellectually know they are false, publicly admit it, and then contradict himself.

The interview proved interesting as well for exposing some of the underlying assumptions of Israeli attitudes and policy toward Iran.  When asked about the unique dangers that Iran posed to Israel or the Middle East, Meridor claimed that Iran has introduced a dangerous element into the region: religion.  Now, there’s no question that Islam is a critical element of the Iranian regime.  But was Iran the first to introduce such religious nationalism?  What about that notion of Israel being a “Jewish” state?  Seems to me that is a clear expression of it as well.  Of course, Israelis will argue that the character of religious expression in the Iranian state is fanatical, intolerant and homicidal, while the character of religious expression in Israel is moderate and tolerant.  That may be what Israelis would like to believe.  But is it true?

One of the primary elements of Israeli national purpose these days is the settlement enterprise.  The justification for it is purely religious in nature.  God gave us the land and commanded us to settle in it and warned us never to part with it.  That’s more or less the gist of the argument.  So if the Muslims and Arabs of the Middle East see such a fundamental element of Israeli nationhood underpinned by religious theology, what are they to think?

Further, when Bibi Netanyahu lays out his argument for Israel attacking Iran what language does he use?  The Holocaust.  Once again, this is discourse that is fundamentally religious in nature.  A Jew may argue that the prime minister has no choice because the Jews were exterminated during the Holocaust for their religion.  But the plain fact is that Netanyahu has many arguments he could wield in making his case.  The fact that he’s offered this one hundreds of times over the years indicates not only that he finds it a powerful one, but that it resonates deeply inside him as a Jew, and he believes it will affect his domestic and international audience in a similar way.

If I were to have to isolate one of the most important parts of my mission in writing this blog it’s to point out to both sides, but especially to Jews and Israelis, that whatever fanatical notions you seek to attribute to the other side, you better look in the mirror first, because it’s more than likely that your co-religionists and fellow citizens have expressed thoughts equally as fundamentalist in nature.

In yesterday’s Times, Steven Erlanger also reveals a certain western awkwardness about the injection of religious rhetoric into political discourse.  He says that Ayatollah Khamenei’s statements about Iran’s nuclear intentions are shrouded in a “fog” of theological terms:

Ayatollah Khamenei, who is not only the leader of Iran’s government but also the final authority on Islamic law, often uses religious language when he talks about the nuclear issue, which can jar Western analysts trying to gauge the meaning of such strong statements.

This is a further indication of how clueless secular western journalists can be to the role of religion in regions like the Middle East.  The unstated implication of such statements is that because Iran’s leaders are religious fanatics their word may not be trusted, nor can we ever know for sure what they really mean.  A further implication is that western secular leaders, when they make political statements, are speaking clearly in a language every reasonable person can understand.

This assumption is riddled with unsupported cultural assumptions.  If this were only a case of cultural misunderstanding, that wouldn’t rise to the level of an issue worth being overly concerned about.  But the fact is that western mis-impressions of the states, cultures and religions of the Middle East has caused round after round of mayhem throughout history.  And we may be walking into yet another one.

James Risen, in an article from yesterday’s Times makes the following racist claim:

…Some analysts say that Ayatollah Khamenei’s denial of Iranian nuclear ambitions has to be seen as part of a Shiite historical concept called taqiyya, or religious dissembling. For centuries an oppressed minority within Islam, Shiites learned to conceal their sectarian identity to survive, and so there is a precedent for lying to protect the Shiite community.

Why is it that some otherwise excellent reporters seem to lose their heads when writing about this subject?  Note Risen refuses to tell us who “some analysts” are so we can judge the credibility of this.  Further, while I’ve seen neo-cons, anti-jihadis and other crackpots make this claim about Shiites, I’ve never heard anyone support it with any proof that any Shiite has ever used taqiyya as justification for lying in a political context.  Just as Jews may annul vows in a purely religious context on Kol Nidre, I’m sure taqiyya is a similarly religious-based precept having nothing whatsoever to do with politics.  This is at best shoddy journalism and at worst outright racism.

Another interesting side issue that arose in the Meridor interview was a reference by the reporter to a statement by Avigdor Lieberman during Cast Lead that Israel should level a crushing blow upon “Hamas” (by which he meant Gaza) that would destroy its will to resist. He likened such a blog to the atom bombs that the U.S. dropped on Japan to end WWII. Meridor claims Lieberman never made the statement, and clearly believes the interviewer is making it up. Unfortunately, he is not and Maariv provides the proof.

In the context of the interview, Lieberman’s statement is important because it shows that Israeli leaders have spoken with bellicosity equal to anything Iran’s leaders have said about Israel. Israel has used homicidal, if not genocidal rhetoric in reference to its Arab neighbors no less than Iran may have. I would actually argue that no matter how troubling or hostile some of Iran’s rhetoric may have been, Iran has repeatedly said that it had no plans to attack Israel pre-emptively. Israel has repeatedly threatened to do precisely that to Iran. So whose rhetoric is worse?

In the interview, Meridor repeats another false claim often made by Israeli leaders and journalists: that the IAEA report released a few months ago says that Iran “has” a military nuclear “plan.” At another point, he says that Iran is “aiming” at building a “nuclear warhead” for its missiles so that they might reach Israel.  At another point in the interview he claims the IAEA has said:

Yes, they [the Iranians] are going for nuclear weapons…They are after nuclear weapons.  They [the IAEA] described the plan very well.

This is at best a wild overstatement of what the report actually said and at worst a tissue of outright lies.  The report said there are indications that Iran may have such a program.  After the interviewer points out to Meridor that all of the U.S. intelligence establishment believes that Iran has not made a decision to get a nuclear bomb, the Israeli minister says:

They said, if I remember correctly, that Iran is going after nuclear weapons…A general understanding between us and American, I think, and Europe–England, France, Germany–is, with no doubts whatsoever, that Iran has made a decision to go there…

Er, well no, they didn’t say that nor do any of the countries named believe that.  Of such errors are wars made.

Then Meridor surprised even me, by tearing a page right out of Robert Spencer and Daniel Pipes and invoking Kulturkampf to explain Iran’s supposed desire to wipe out Israel and the entire western world.  The grandiose conspiratorial nature of his thinking reveals just how delusional is the mindset of some of Israel’s key decision-makers:

I think that the standoff between America and Iran, and the Muslim world is a sort of Kulturkampf, a clash of civilizations.  And some groups that are not nationally based, but religiously based–call them Al Qaeda or Jihad or Taliban and others–who think that this is a way to stop the west and the domination of those ideas, will have a real boost in a victory of Iran over those westerners that are trying to change the course, the historical course…

With thinking like this coming from one of the more moderate and supposedly sophisticated members of the Israeli governing coalition, you might as well have Anders Breivik making Israel’s strategic decisions.  There doesn’t appear that much difference in thinking between Meridor and Breivik regarding the threat posed by the Muslim world.

When the Al Jazeera reporter asked Meridor whether Israel shouldn’t join the NPT protocol and lay its own nuclear program open to the same inspections that Iran allows. The Israeli almost laughably says that Israel’s refusal to join is a “sound and good” policy and “does not bother anyone seriously.”  He also states that the question of whether there will be a war in the Middle East is “in the hands of Iran.”  This reminds me in a number of ways of the thinking of the bullies, child abusers or wife beaters who tell their victims that the question of whether they will beat them up is solely in the victims’ hands.  At the very least, it seems like putting the cart before the horse.

On a related note, the single most comprehensive debunking of the “wipe Israel off the map” claim is this article from the Washington Post.

The Lord hears the cry of the Palestinian people.

As a Bible believing Christian I find the anti-BDS sentiment of so called journalists like Greg Sheridan and Andrew Bolt to be based in nothing but European supremacist, pro-colonialist bigotry. The media representation of what the BDS campaign is all about is reprehensible to anyone who knows anything at all about the movement.

The BDS program against the Zionist state was called for by 170 civil Palestinian organisations in 2005 as a non-violent means to pursue the cause for self determination and justice for the Palestinian people by putting economic pressure on the state of Israel to align itself with international law regarding its behaviour and policies towards the Palestinian people. The goal of the BDS movement is not necessarily aligned with either a one or two state solution. At all levels, the BDS movement recognises the right of the state of Israel to exist with secure and safe borders. A right acknowledged by Yasser Arafat in 1993 but never reciprocated by the Israeli government to this day.

The western media has no complaint with sanctions against those nations that don’t “play ball” with us, regardless of the fact that, in Iraq for example, thousands of children suffer and die as a result. But when it comes to countries that are aligned with us, even the slightest hint of sanctions against them is met with almost hysterical cries of racist and terrorist motivations, regardless of the fact that, as in the case of Israel, the nation is guilty of more violations of International law than all the Arab/Muslim nations put together. We can bomb Iraq to the ground (killing hundreds of thousands) on the faulty premise that it had weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda when in fact it did not and our leaders had access to (or could have easily gained access to) information to the contrary. We can do these things without the slightest pang of conscience or pain of remembrance because our media and our leaders do not allow them to be part of our remembrance. They are not worthy victims; they are not worthy of our grief or sorrow let alone remorse. they are not us, they are them.

To the opponents of the BDS movement, the only true course for the Palestinian people is to either self dispossess from their homeland or be complicit with the illegal military occupation of the West Bank and the siege of Gaza. The refugees that live outside of Israel-Palestine should just “get over it”. Those who oppose the BDS movement deny the Palestinian people any means to fight for their rights to self determination at all. They must in effect become Zionists or suffer the consequences. The anti-BDS proponents demonise all Palestinian resistance. They condemn Palestinians as terrorists if they resist with violence or condemn them as anti-Semites if they resist non violently as is the case with the BDS campaign. They demand that the game be played in such a way that “heads Israel wins, tails the Palestinians lose”.

John Pilger puts a far more correct spin on the BDS campaign when he says in support of the BDS movement:

“Sometimes, looked at from the outside, Australia is a strange place. In other ‘western democracies’ the ‘debate’ about the enduring injustice dealt the Palestinians and Israel’s lawlessness has moved forward to the point where the cynical campaign of anti-Semitism smears is no longer effective — in the UK, much of Europe and even the United States.
If Israel’s bloody assault on Lebanon was not the turning point, the criminal attack on the imprisoned population of Gaza certainly was. The same is true of the BDS movement. This eminently reasonable, decent and necessary campaign enjoys a respectability across the world, not least in South Africa, where it’s backed by the likes of Desmond Tutu and especially those Jews who fought the apartheid regime. The University of Johannesburg, the country’s biggest, has just broken all ties with Israel. Justice for Palestine, said, Mandela, is ‘the greatest moral issue of our time’. That’s the company those Marrickville councillors who have stood up for this ‘greatest moral issue’, keep. And those who have wavered and walked away should think again – remembering other waverers who, long ago, walked away from speaking out against what was being done to Jews. The scale is very different; the principle is the same. Do not be intimidated by Murdoch vendettas or by anyone else. All power to you.”

John Pilger

The words of the Torah cry out to all Christians, Muslims and Jews.

“Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.”( Exodus 22:21-24)

The God of the Old Testament cries out in dozens of verses in the Torah for Jews to reach out beyond the bounds of hatred, racism and bigotry; to take hold of the hands of the oppressed and the alien just as God reached out to them when they were helpless in Egypt, suffering under the oppression of Pharaoh.

The BDS movement will be heard in heaven, of that we can be assured. God’s promise to hear the cry of the oppressed in Israel should send shudders up the spine of those who arrogantly deny the right of the Palestinian people to be heard. The words of Jesus ring in our ears as well:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)

Jesus care and concern for the marginalised and demonized in His time reflect the love of God for all humanity. His special concern for those at the “bottom” is a perfect reflection of God the Father’s heart towards Jew and non-Jew.

The gospel of Christian Zionism is not a gospel of Good News to Palestinians be they Christian, Muslim or secular. It is not really a gospel of Good News to anyone whose heart rejoices at the news of God’s reconciliation of all humanity to Himself.

The BDS movement affirms the right of Jewish people to live anywhere in the world (not just in Israel) in peace and equality with all peoples, free from racial and religious bigotry. The BDS movement wishes for exactly the same right for Palestinians. As such, the morality of the movement matches the morality of the God of both Testaments of the Bible. Anti-BDS supporters reject the concept of equality for Jew and non-Jew in Israel and the occupied territories. As such, they align themselves with the powers already defeated on the cross of Jesus some 2,000 years ago. Justice and equality for all in the Holy land is the ultimate goal of the Lord God and the BDS movement. That is why I endorse and am involved in it.

The New Testament affirms to Christians that both Jesus and Moses concur about justice and equality in all the world. Religious nationalism, self righteousness and hatred will be swept away, once and for all. this is the true hope that lies at the heart of all truly Biblically based doctrines of Eschatology.

Craig Nielsen
ACTION FOR PALESTINE

Israel-Palestine: A Christian Response to the Conflict

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