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Destroying from Within
My Father, Frank Nielsen, served six years in combat service with the Australian Infantry during World War II. He spent time in North Africa fighting Rommel’s Afrika Corp and was then shipped off to fight in the jungles of New Guinea against Tojo’s Imperial Japanese Forces. He came back a physical and nervous wreck. Years of shock treatment and a Leucotomy (not dissimilar to a frontal lobotomy) gave some relief, but in the end he succumbed to his post traumatic stress condition and died when I was six years old of a massive heart attack.
Not surprisingly, after my father’s war experience, he was a strong advocate for peace but still maintained that Australia’s war against the German’s was necessary and just. His attitude towards war is hardly controversial. He did not oppose the war against Germany as such but took a view that all wars should be avoided at all costs. I well remember asking him whether or not he was a “baddie or a goodie” during the war. All I got as an answer was a rather pained look which I didn’t understand at the time.
But when a member of a nations armed forces stands up and refuses to continue fighting a war that is basically unjust in his/her opinion, while it is still in progress and unresolved, people look up and take notice. Especially in a country like Israel where the military is held in such enormously high regard. And so people in Israel have stood up and taken notice of Yonatan Shapira, a former Captain and pilot in the Israeli Air force and a member of a family with a long history of distinguished service in the I.D.F. , who has joined the ranks of the some 1400 declared refusers or “refuseniks” as they call themselves. In a nearly hour long interview, Yonatan describes his journey from flying Black Hawk helicopters to refusing to take part in missions to target alleged Palestinian terrorists for assassination.
Just like the prophet Jeremiah, Yonatan loves Israel and its people and says that it has a right to defend itself from terrorism, but not at the expense of the ethical traditions that make up what Jewishness has always been about. He believes that the occupation is slowly destroying the moral and ethical fibre of the country he loves. And just like Jeremiah, Yonatan has been called a traitor to the Israeli nation because he believes that the ethical traditions that he has been taught, trump loyalty to nation when the two collide. To both of these men, to love Israel but not criticise it when it strays, is a contradiction in terms.
Yonatan firmly believes in the ethical nature of service in the I.D.F. as he has been instructed but believes that the current Zionist state is involved in an occupation that is pulling Israel down a path that is ever more morally compromising the Israeli people themselves. The occupation is destroying the fabric of Israeli life from within.
Christian Zionists would do well to listen to the story of Yonatan. Just as the great Israeli intellectual, Yeshayahu Leibowitz, believed that the occupation would create a police state within greater Israel and sap it of its moral and spiritual values and that the use of religion as a means to rationalise brutal chauvinism and the annexation of territories to which a previous historical connection existed was a debasement of Judaism, so Christian Zionists who claim to love Israel would be acting far more like a true friend of Israel if they implored the Zionist state to return to the ethical traditions of the Torah rather than egging them on in an insatiable land grab.
To see the full interview with Yonatan Shapira, follow the link below and hear this amazing story.
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God Hears the Cry of the Oppressed
“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 Old Testamenst clearly teaches us that the land of Canaan is not owned by the Jewish people. Leviticus 25:23 informs us that…”“The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is Mine and you are but aliens and My tenants”. 3,000 years of Jewish tradition and 2,000 years of Christian tradition affirm that the occupation of the land of Canaan by the Jewish people has been conditional upon their adherence to the religious and ethical traditions of the Torah. These ethical traditions demand that the Jewish people treat non-Jews in a manner reflecting the very heart of God towards all humanity. No sense of arrogant entitlement to the land of Canaan is condoned by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Rabbi Moshe Sober sums up the tradional idea of the relationship of Jews to the land of Israel:
“The notion that we can do whatever we please, to any kind of temptation, or engage in any form of foolish self-aggrandizement without fear of penalty because we have an inside track to the Almighty is the plain opposite of religious faith. It is in fact an affront to the Divine, whose authority to determine the course of history we are usurping. The traditional penalty for this sin is to be sent to face a hostile world with no lucky breaks, no Divine assistance whatsoever, until we learn that only those who are performing God’s will can count on His assistance. Such blind faith is not really a faith in God at all, but rather faith in ourselves. It makes a tool out of the Almighty. It turns Him into a kind of “secret weapon” whose purpose is to guarantee our success at whatever we fancy. It is an idolatrous concept that masks what is actually an irrational belief in our own invincibility” (Sober, 1990, p. 30, 31).
Zionist ideology hardly places the current state of Israel within the confines of the conditions of their tenancy agreement with the Lord God. Rabbi Isaac Breuer (1883–1946) tells us that:
“Zionism is the most terrible enemy that has ever arisen to the Jewish nation. The anti-nationalistic Reform engages it [the Jewish nation] at least in an open fight, but Zionism kills the nation and then elevates the corpse to the throne.”
In response to the disobedience of the Jewish people in Israel with regards to the ethical demands of the Lord, God sent His prophets to warn Israel of their impending exile if they did not repent and treat the vulnerable amongst them as if they were one of their own:
“ if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever.” Jeremiah 7:6,7
“ This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” Jeremiah 23:3
“You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who have settled among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. In whatever tribe the alien settles, there you are to give him his inheritance,” declares the Sovereign LORD.” Ezekiel 47:21-23
When Israel ignored the cry of the alien in the land, God sent prophets to call them to repentance. God held Israel to account for not listening to the voice of those who were oppressed in the land.
In 2005, 170 civil Palestinian organisations (many of them Christian) called on the world to enact a program of Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against the Zionist state of Israel in order to bring them into line with international law regarding the human rights of the Arabs of Palestine and Israel. This BDS program is the “cry of the oppressed in the land” to God Himself. God has promised in His word that He will hear their cry and bring justice. It is the cry against the illegal occupation of the West Bank with its illegal settlements, Israeli only highways, checkpoints and house demolitions as well as the siege of Gaza.
God’s love for the Jewish people only acts to make them more accountable for their behaviour in the land of Israel, not less. They have no legitimate occupation of the land outside the ethical and religious conditions of their tenancy. It is because of God’s love for them that He resists their colonialist project to ethnically cleanse the land of Palestine. The BDS movement is the will of God for the Zionist state of Israel and as such it can not be thwarted. The quicker the Zionists, be they Christian or otherwise, come to realise this, the better for all the peoples of the Middle East.
Sober, M. (1990). Beyond the Jewish State: Confessions of a Former Zionist. Summerhill Press, Toronto.
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A True Prophet of God and Lover of Israel.
Recently I saw a dedication to the late Christian Zionist evangelical, Derek Prince, on the front pages of a book by a Mega-Church evangelical leader in the U.S. The dedication named Derek Prince as “a lover of Israel”. Prince died in Jerusalem in 2003.
Many hundreds of years earlier, another man, the prophet Jeremiah, would die and leave a legacy of what a “true man of God and lover of Israel” really looks like. It suffices to say that apart from two legs, two arms and a head (and other genetically transmitted features of the human species), the similarities between the two men (particularly with regard to their theology, understanding of Jewishness and the land of Israel) are virtually non-existent.
Christian Zionists, like the late Derek Prince, would never dare to criticise the Zionist State of Israel (unless the Zionists decide to allow the creation of a Palestinian state), while Jeremiah castigated the leadership of Israel more than any of the prophets of old. Yet few would doubt that no prophet of the Old Testament ever loved the Jewish people more passionately than Jeremiah. Jeremiah was in a state of constant turmoil over his fellow Jews lack of desire to fulfill the covenantal responsibilities that they must uphold in the land or be sent in to exile. Christian Zionists could care less. I have never once heard a Christian Zionist speak of the danger of a Secular Zionist State being cast into exile because of its lack of desire to place the Torah at the centre of Jewish life in Israel. The Zionists can ignore the ethical and religious traditions of the Torah (particularly with respect to the treatment of non-Jews living in Israel) with impunity, according to Christan Zionism. Jeremiah would have run out of garments to tare from his body in anguish and dust and ashes to throw upon himself and into the air in grief had he been alive to see his beloved people living in a Zionist State.
Jeremiah spoke the truth of God to the people of Israel regardless of the popularity of his message among the leaders of Israel. The truth has authority regardless of who speaks it. At the time of the First Temple in Israel, Jeremiah pleaded with the now infamous Jews of his time, (later to become heroes in the eyes of the Zionists), who, Jewish tradition tells us, refused to surrender to the armies of Nebuchadnezzar in the face of certain defeat, to lay down their arms thereby ensuring the safety of countless Jewish lives even though the city of Jerusalem and the Temple would be destroyed. Jeremiah was labeled a traitor and his word rejected, resulting in not only the destruction of the Temple, but almost the entire Jewish population of Israel as well, according to the punishment from God for not surrendering that scripture reveals.
The traditions of the military forces of Zionist Israel, the I.D.F., who celebrate the Jewish rebellion at Masada, would no doubt regard the attitudes of Jeremiah as treasonous. For Jeremiah, obedience to God trumped occupation of the land. Disobedience to God in the land of Israel by the Jewish people could never be condoned or ignored by any of the prophets God sent to Israel in the Old Testament. Prophets were not sent because only they had the right to criticise Israel, but were sent because the Jewish leaders and citizens of Israel had failed to hear the prophetic word of God as revealed in the law already available to them in the Torah.
A popular habit of evangelical Christians is to reflect on “What would Jesus do?” when confronted with difficult ethical situations. I hardly think Jesus attitude would be greatly divergent from that of Jeremiah in the case of Zionist Israel. The privilege of being God’s people can not be separated from the heightened responsibilities that are at the very core of the covenant of the land that God made with the Jewish people to remain in the land of Israel. Orthodox religious Jews remind us that Zionism’s rejection of those responsibilities will mean exile as God’s character demands if the type of repentance that Jeremiah called for from his people in his time is not forthcoming from Israel today.
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Christian Zionist Ethics
The ethical stance taken by advocates of Christian Zionism, with regard to the Israel-Palestine conflict, although somewhat convoluted and contradictory at best, can be summed up by the following: Unconditional support for the State of Israel is the duty of all Christians.
For Christian Zionists, the Israelis have a license to do as they wish in the land of Israel with possibly the only exception being that they must not give in to the cries of injustice made by the Palestinian people and allow any of Greater Israel to come under non-Jewish rule. Hence Christian Zionists never criticise Israel for any atrocities they commit against Palestinian Arabs, be they Christian, Muslim, secular or even other Jews, but they would, for example, criticise Israeli leaders like Ariel Sharon, for the withdrawal of Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip in 2005. In the eyes of the Christian Zionists, the only mandate for Jews in Israel is to conquer all the land at any cost.
The ethical and religious traditions of Judaism, with regards to the covenant of the land, made by God and the Jewish people at Mount Sinai, are basically irrelevant according to Christian Zionist teaching. The fact that the State of Israel is a Zionist Secular State is of no consequence to them regardless of the fact that scripture plainly teaches that God is intimately concerned with the ethical behaviour of His people while living in the land of Israel. In fact, occupation of the land by the Jews is completely conditional upon their adherence to the ethical and religious traditions of the Torah. As the Chosen people of God, they are unique in that they alone have a specific covenant, recorded in detail in scripture, regarding their occupation of the land.
A secular state ideology that repudiates the Torah clearly stands outside the conditions of the covenant of the land God made with the Hebrews at Sinai. It doesn’t take a prophet sent by God like Jeremiah or Isaiah to see that secular Zionism is a rebellion against the open worship of God. Christian Zionist silence on this matter puts them in a position of complicity with the Zionist rebellion against the Torah and hence against God. God calls all people, not just specially designated prophets, to speak out against injustice and rebellion in the land of Israel. Why? Because God cares about injustice against the vulnerable in the land as mentioned in scripture too many times to enumerate here.
Christian Zionist apathy towards the breaking of the covenant of the land by the Zionist State is achieved by an argument that over-emphasises the concept of the Sovereignty of God in the history of the world and a virtual complete dismissal of the responsibility of Jewish people with regard to their ethical behaviour on a day to day basis in Israel. In Christian Zionist theology, the Sovereignty of God not only trumps the responsibility of Jews in Israel, it annuls it.
The Christian Zionist demand that the State of Israel is the “apple of God’s eye” and that the hand of God is upon them means that no criticism of Israel is allowed. God’s overall plan repudiates the need for Israel to be challenged about its rebellious behaviour against the Torah of God. Whereas the prophets of old challenged Israel with great force, no such criticism is allowed today.
The Zionist rebellion against God is of no consequence since we are told that God’s hand is on the land and that He has brought the Jews back to the land as He said He would. Israel has a blank cheque, a license to do as it pleases in the eyes of Christian Zionism. The responsibility of Jews in Israel, as clearly stated in the Torah, is suddenly drowned out by hysterical appeals to the sovereignty of God and claims of fulfilled prophecy. The disappearance of the moral and ethical demands of God regarding the Jewish people in Israel, has been justified in Christian Zionist dogma.
All Christians must endorse the state of Israel and not criticise it, regardless of the fact that it has violated its covenantal responsibilities with regard to the land from the very outset. Anyone reading the curses that Jews must face if they disobey God while in the land, would be forgiven for thinking that God is deadly serious about whether or not Israel obeys Him while occupying the land, but the Christian Zionists inform us that this would be a mistake.
While God was really concerned about this in the past, it matters to Him no more and so it should not matter to us either. God’s plan to restore the nation of Israel can only apply to the Zionist state as it is today and hence all will be put right by God in the near future. No need for crying out about the rebellious Zionists and the atrocities they have committed in the recent past. Since God is going to restore Israel any moment, there is no need to worry about whether or not Israel fulfils its covenantal responsibility. In other words, the end justifies the means! Because God knows (and so would we if we would only listen to the wisdom of the Bible as revealed by Christian Zionists) that He has plans to make all things right in Israel, we should not criticise Israel for the sins that it commits today. Injustices committed today and in the making of the Zionist State should be ignored. God is using all things to bring about His plans for Israel and so nothing should be challenged.
Perhaps Jeremiah should have responded to the word that God gave Him regarding Israel as follows;
Hmmm…Israel is the “apple of God’s eye” and His hand is upon them and He has a wonderful plan for them. He has everything in control! No need to worry about the sins of Israel…God is Sovereign. He is allowing them to do these sinful acts for a reason! I should just shut up and remember that God will curse me if I criticise His people.
The Christians Zionists attitude to the state of Israel verges on idolatry. Israel can do no wrong, it can never be challenged. To criticise or challenge the State of Israel when they break their covenantal responsibilities will invoke a curse from God, while blessing it in its rebellion will ensure a blessing from same. Such interpretations of God’s promises to Abraham are unknown to Judaism. In effect these interpretations are invoked when Christian Zionist interpretations are challenged by students of scripture.
The ethical stand of Christian Zionism towards the state of Israel is contradictory in the extreme. The legitimacy of the state of Israel in the land is not decided on by whether or not is in rebellion against the covenant of the land God made with it at Sinai, but simply by the Christian Zionist pronouncement that the current State of Israel, regardless of its attitude now, will be restored in the future. It’s what happens in the future, according to their reading of scripture, which decides what is acceptable today. This ethical stance is fundamentally repudiated by scripture.
The contradictory nature of Christian Zionist logic is clearly evident when we give it even the smallest amount of scrutiny. Since the creation of the State of Israel, as it is today, is by the Sovereign plan of God and part of His plan to restore the nation of Israel and the return of Christ, we should not be concerned about Israel’s legitimacy in the land because of its breaking of the covenant that it made with God at Sinai. That is irrelevant. God doesn’t care about such things these days. We should endorse anything that brings about the creation of the State of Israel and its project to take control of all of Greater Israel because this is the Sovereign plan of God. God can use any means to bring about His plans, even if they might seem unfair at first.
By this logic, all Christians should endorse the Holocaust. It is universally recognised that the Holocaust was a major factor in the minds of the members of the United Nations when deciding on whether or not to create an Israeli state in Palestine. Jewish migration to Palestine, something applauded by Christian Zionists, took a major move upward during the reign of the Nazis. God clearly used the Holocaust to bring about the state of Israel so we must endorse the destruction of six million Jews! Any other attitude to the Holocaust shows Christian Zionist hypocrisy.
Christian theologians of all descriptions have agreed that God sovereignly allows evil to occur for purposes that may seem obvious sometimes and completely inscrutable at others. Regardless of how we do or do not interpret the reasons that God allows evil, we are called by God to resist that evil ,even if it appears to be facilitating prophetic fulfilment or not. The act of God in allowing evil in no way implies God’s endorsement of that very same evil. What God does not endorse according to His own morality, should not be endorsed by us regardless of the fact that God has chosen to allow it to happen. The end justifies the means is a fatalistic statement not found or endorsed in any way in scripture. The details of God’s plan to fulfil His predestined decrees are His business. Our business is to resist the evil that God allows to occur in this world regardless of whether or not we think we understand why it has occurred according to our own understandings of eschatology. The breaking of the Mosaic covenant of the land by the Zionist State is a breaking of God’s covenant and is not endorsed by God regardless of how in the end God uses that rebellion to fulfil His plan. Since God does not endorse such behaviour then neither should we and silence on such a matter, when the possible consequences are so grave, is not justifiable. The future is for God to decide. The responsibility to our fellow human beings, as outlined by the merciful actions of God who hears the voice of the poor and oppressed and advocates for them, is just that…our responsibility. Our ethics are derived from the Sermon on the Mount and God’s universal concern for all people’s rights as revealed in God’s word.
The ethics of Christianity are Christalogically based. They are not centred on doctrines of eschatology. Ethics based on eschatology are presumptive upon alleged knowledge of future events and inevitably lead to an “end justifies the means” mentality. This type of arrogant use of God’s word betrays itself as bad theology by its outcome. The priority of caring for one’s neighbour regardless of colour or creed is abandoned for an ethic that discriminates against those who are alleged not to be in God’s books according to sectarian doctrines of the end times. Christ calls us to see each other first as human beings rather than those who are on the right track of God’s end times plan and those who are not.
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