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After just over 10 years of supporting the cause for justice and self determination for Palestinians, I have gotten somewhat used to being called an anti-Semite by the fanatical supporters of the Zionist State of Israel. It is the most crass and obvious ploy imaginable to get any criticism of the Zionist State shut down. And this most disingenuous strategy has been clearly admitted to even by members of the Israeli Knesset.

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Picking the difference between anti-Semitism and legitimate criticism of Israel is really quite simple. To put it plainly, anti-Semites just hate Jews and everything about them, period. They hate Jewish anything. Jewish language, Jewish culture, Jewish religion. They hate Zionists, religious Zionists, Orthodox, Reform or liberal Judaism. They hate Jewish scientists, Jewish musicians, Jewish politicians, Jewish doctors, Jewish plumbers! They hate any mathematical, scientific, philosophical or political contributions made by Jews. They hate the Old Testament, the Torah and the Talmud. For anti-Semites, Jews can do no right, no good. They either want them to disappear, die or go live altogether somewhere where no one else needs to see them! They believe that most, if not all wars, are started by Jews and think that there exists a world-wide conspiracy of Jews to dominate the world. Many Christians believe that the anti-Christ mentioned in the book of Revelation will be Jewish. Are you starting to get the picture? And of course, they hate Israel. Their hatred of Israel has nothing to do with the human rights of Palestinians. They would hate Israel regardless of whether or not the creation of the Zionist State upset or dispossessed anyone in any way. They would hate and criticise every policy issued from the Knesset regardless of the topic, whether it involved the treatment of Palestinians, its policies on climate change, gay and lesbian rights or abortion rights. Anti-Semites, strangely, both deny the Holocaust and believe that the Jews got what they deserved in the Holocaust that they deny even occurred! Anti-Semitism is totally irrational and evil.

In the 10 years that I have been involved in this issue I have never been to a single Palestine solidarity rally or meeting that didn’t entirely focus on one issue and one issue alone. And that issue is, of course, the treatment of Palestinians (be they Christian, Muslim or otherwise) by the Zionist State of Israel. No other criticism of Israel or Jews in general, is ever made. If I believed, as many Israelis do, that the survival of the entire Jewish people absolutely depends on the existence of Israel, then I would be forced to support the Israeli State. As it is, I don’t remotely believe in such an obviously false concept.

Israel, funnily enough, although it has now got incredibly right-wing political leaders, is quite a liberal and progressive country. For Jews that is. Israel has about 20,000 legal abortions every year (which is about the same number per capita as my country, Australia), and is a self-declared beacon for gay and lesbian rights. Israel doesn’t have same sex marriage legislation like Australia, but it does recognise the same sex marriages of Israelis that were performed outside of Israel. It recognises such couples as having full adoption rights in Israel. Israel has universal health care and government subsidised tertiary education. Even the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is an advocate of Global Climate Change due to human agency and proudly boasts Israel’s development of Green technology. Netanyahu has declared that global warming is as bigger threat to the world as any other security issue. Israel, historically, has had a strong labour Union movement. It has had strip clubs and brothels and drug traffickers as well, just like most western countries. At the moment, Israeli feminist groups are trying to shut down strip clubs and brothels.

The crazy thing is that the Christian Right-wing, particularly of the English-speaking countries, pretty much despises most of these ideas as “godless, liberal or left wing” ideology, while at the same time unconditionally supporting the Zionist State in its project to take all of historic Palestine without allowing self-determination of Palestinians. When countries like Australia, England, Canada and the U.S. indulge in these policies, cries of Godlessness and imminent judgement from God can be heard from nearly every conservative Christian pulpit. But Israel gets a free pass on these issues even though on top of this the State of Israel’s state sanctioned ideology, Zionism, denies outright the divinity of Christ as being a valid belief for any truly Jewish citizen of Israel to indulge in!

And if that wasn’t enough to make your head spin, most Muslim countries in the world agree with the Religious Christian right on nearly all of the values or ideas mentioned above yet the Religious right feel totally entitled to demonise such countries day and night!

Anti-Semitism comes in many forms and degrees, just like any type of bigotry or racism. For my part, I will state my beliefs on the record here for all to see and later quote.

I believe in the right of Jews and Arabs to live in Israel/Palestine with self-determination, safety and security. I do not believe that Israel is the state that represents all Jews, nor do I believe that Benjamin Netanyahu is the Prime Minister of all Jews. I believe that Zionism is a secular movement whose goal is to change the traditional Jewish identity from a religious identity centred on the Torah, to a national identity like the nation states of Europe. Many Jews, both religious and otherwise, do not support or identify with the State of Israel. Criticism of the treatment of Palestinians by the State of Israel, nor anti-Zionism in general, is not anti-Semitism. For sure, anti-Semites would nearly always end up being anti-Zionists as well but the logic simply doesn’t go the other way around. It is no more anti-Semitic to criticise the State of Israel for its policies in regard to Palestinians as it is anti-Asian to criticise the Communist Government of China. Anti-Semitism, racism, Islamophobia, Christa-phobia, Homo-phobia, all belong in the dustbin of history.

I believe that Jews and Arabs (Christian, Muslim or secular) have a long history of mutual cooperation and respect for each other in the Holy Land before the Zionist era as Albert Einstein noted:

“There could be no greater calamity than a permanent discord between us and the Arab people. Despite the great wrong that has been done to us, we must strive for a just and lasting compromise with the Arab people. Let us recall that in former times no people lived in greater friendship with us than the ancestors of these Arabs” (cited in Jerome, 2009, p.70).

The real home of anti-Semitism is in Christian Europe, not the Middle East.

I believe that the best solution to the issue is the creation of one state, call it Israel if you must, that is a state for all its citizens equally. Neither a Jewish state, nor an Arab state. A democratic state much like the one dreamed of by Zionists like Albert Einstein and millions of Palestinians and Jews throughout the world.

CRAIG NIELSEN

February, 2020

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

Who Owns the Land of Palestine?

A basic tenant of Christian Zionism is that the Jewish people sovereignly own the land of Palestine. For the Christian Zionists, to even designate the region as, “The Land of Palestine” is to betray ones ignorance of the true status of the ownership of the holy land. The proof texts from scripture used by the proponents of this Zionist position are said to be plain, unequivocal and compelling in the extreme. Followers of Jesus who hold to doctrines at odds with the Christian Zionist position are looked upon by them with a suspicion that borders on outright denunciation of the faith. The most widely known proof text comes from the twelfth chapter of the Book of Genesis.

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse and all families of the earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen 12:1-3).

The, “land that I will show you”, is universally accepted as relating to the land of Palestine as it was known before the creation of the modern Zionist State of Israel in May of 1948. In fact the land designated in scripture that this covenant promise refers to encompasses a region significantly larger than the Zionist state of Israel and the Occupied Territories. The covenant promise is further revealed a few chapters on in the same book of the Bible.

Abram fell face down, and God said to him, “As for Me, this is My covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram, your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you and kings will come from you. I will establish My covenant as an everlasting covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”(Gen 17:3–8).

These two passages of scripture stand as the unshakable foundation of Christian Zionist belief. God has given the sovereign title deed to the land of Canaan to the Jewish people and they have an absolute right to take the land that belongs to them in any manner they see fit. That right is conferred upon them by no other condition than their Jewishness, their descent from Abraham, the Children of Israel. This sovereign Jewish ownership of the land is as absolute as any fact could possibly be. It matters not whether the nations of the world recognise it; it is the consummate fact of history by the absolute decree and promise of God Himself. All who fail to recognise this fact and act according to that mistaken premise align themselves, knowingly or unknowingly, with the forces of darkness that seek to thwart the plans of the Almighty God. They become complicit with the plans of the anti-Christ. The land of Canaan is the possession of the Jewish people; even more so than the land bought by private citizens is their possession. It is the everlasting possession of the Jews by the very word of God.

How could this understanding of the relationship of the Jewish people to the land of Canaan possibly be disputed by anyone desiring to be faithful to the Bible as God’s word? Surely no-one who has studied these texts with a desire to follow the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob could ever dispute this most obvious teaching of the scriptures.

The certainty of the Christian Zionist’s conviction in their understanding of the relationship of the Jewish people to the land of Canaan takes its first hit when confronted with the historical fact that for 18 centuries, Orthodox Judaism has not shared this understanding. Rabbis of the Jewish faith have never believed that the Jewish people can take the land of Canaan at anytime, in any manner they see fit.  Jewish tradition, derived directly from the Old Testament of the Bible, has always recognised the conditional nature of the Jewish people’s entry and occupation of the land of promise. Torah Judaism has never interpreted the covenant of God with Abraham in the sense that Jewish people have an unconditional right to take the land of Canaan for themselves simply by virtue of their Jewishness. The land does not belong to them.

“The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is Mine and you are but aliens and My tenants.” (Lev 25:23)

The land of Israel is a Holy Land. Even by this designation we can see to whom the land really belongs. Holiness in the Bible primarily refers to the concept of ownership rather than moral purity. A piece of land or a space in a temple can hardly be said to have the quality of being morally pure. The term “Holy Land” reveals to us that the land is God’s. The Jewish people, a Holy Nation, belong to God and can never be “as the nations”. As such the land is not a “homeland” but a Holy Land; a land set apart for the purposes of God, not merely the purposes of men, and the Jewish people have a very particular God given mandate as God’s people in this Holy Land. The scriptures reveal this mandate and give further detail and qualification to the covenant promises of God to Abraham and the Jewish people.

The Exodus narrative clearly tells how the first generation of Abraham’s descendants to be redeemed from Egypt were barred from entry into the Promised Land. Had God broken His promise to Abraham by not letting Moses, Aaron and the rest of the Hebrews claim the land of Canaan as their possession? Three millennia of Judeo-Christian teaching have emphatically declared that He had not.

That first generation were halted in their tracks because they had not fulfilled the conditions of obedience and faithfulness to God via obedience to the Law. The Jews were not required to be perfect to enter the land, but they did have to be oriented towards the Lord in faith and obedience for them to find rest in the land of milk and honey. They did not earn their redemption nor were they threatened with having it revoked for their disobedience, but there were conditions that the first rebellious generation, the generation that worshipped the golden calf and tested the Lord on numerous occasions with their disobedience, did not fulfil. Hence they wandered in the desert for forty years until every last one of them, Moses and Aaron included, had perished for their sins. God would not endorse a rebellious Jewish people’s taking of the land He had promised. Implicit in the promise were the ethical conditions that reveal the very heart of God and His purposes in creating the nation of Israel.

And while occupying the land, the descendants of Abraham had similar conditions to live up to in order for them to avoid the dreaded consequences of disobedience while living in the land of Canaan; exile.

‘“You are to distribute the land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who have settled among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. In whatever tribe the alien settles, there you are to give him his inheritance,” declares the Sovereign Lord’ (Ezek 47:22-23).

“You are to have the same law for the alien and the native born.” (Lev 24:22).

“Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.” (Ex22:21).

“So let not the land spew you out for defiling it, as it spewed out the nation that came before you.” (Lev 18:28).

“You shall faithfully observe all My laws and all My regulations, lest the land to which I bring you to settle in spew you out.” (Lev 20:22).

“When an alien (non-Jew) lives with you in your land, do not mistreat or oppress him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native born. Love him as yourself for you were an alien in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (Lev 20:33, 34.).

Thus says the Lord God of Israel: You shed blood, yet you would keep possession of the land? You rely on your sword, you do abominable things…yet you would keep possession of the land?…I will make the land a desolate waste, and her proud strength will come to an end, and the mountains of Israel will become desolate so that no one will cross them. Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I have made the land a desolate waste because of all the detestable things they have done. (Ezek. 33:25-29)

The Israelites were to learn, very painfully, that God meant what He said. Twice in history the Jewish people have been expelled from the land for their disobedience. The conditions of their tenancy being continually violated, they were forced into exile until repentance was found in the Israelites once more.

Tenants do not own the property they live in. So how do we understand God’s promise to give Abraham’s descendants the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession in the light of this revelation? The answer lies in realising that the ethical traditions of Judaism supersede the traditions of the land. This comes from the understanding of God’s plan of redemption which intimately involves the Jewish people. Biblical redemption is redemption from the sinfulness of humanity. The covenant of God regarding the land can not be separated from God’s righteousness and desire for humanity’s redemption and consequent obedience to God. God’s concern is for all of humanity and a great part of the Jewish ethical tradition concerns the treatment of the stranger, the alien, the non-Jew and all the vulnerable in the land of Canaan.

Assuming that the promise regarding the land meant the land literally, and did not have a dual meaning relating to the Kingdom of Heaven in general, we can make some suggestions as to how we can reconcile God’s promise to Abraham and the implicit ethical requirements of Israel to remain in the land. For the land of Canaan to be an everlasting possession of the Jewish people, those very Jewish people must live up to the ethical conditions required of them forever. This could never happen outside of the ultimate reality of God’s final and total redemption from sin and this is what is at the heart of God’s plan for the Jewish people. The Jewish people can no more live eternally in Canaan while still sinning against the Lord than Christians believe they can live with God eternally in the Kingdom of Heaven in a sinful state. The everlasting possession of the land by the Jewish people is really pointing to what God really desired for the Children of Israel; that they live with a righteousness that is their eternal possession. Occupation of the land by Jewish people can not be separated from this ultimate requirement and desire of the heart of God.

The purpose of God in creating the Jewish people was to make a people for Himself; a royal priesthood and a Holy nation; through whom all families of the earth would be blessed according to His redemption plan. An occupation of the Holy Land by the Jewish people outside of this heavenly vision is against the very heart of God and cannot stand.

The Jewish people DO NOT OWN the land of Palestine. The Lord God owns this Holy Land and the Jewish people are his tenants and are aliens in the land. The currency of this everlasting “rental” agreement is adherence to the ethical traditions of Judaism. Traditions that demand equality and justice for all in Israel.

A grave question mark hangs over the Zionist State of Israel. According to Christian Zionists, the very idea of an illegitimate possession and control of the land of Israel by Jewish people is a contradiction in terms, but in truth finds verification in both the Old Testament and the traditions of Torah Judaism. The Oaths of the Talmud, forbidding Jews to retake Palestine by either force or political activism, clearly speak to us of the reality of the possibility of Jewish control of the land of Canaan being in actual fact illegitimate. Oaths need not be taken for the prohibition of something that God Himself has vowed never to allow to eventuate in any shape or form. God has placed the responsibility of the prohibition to never re-enter Canaan on masse, on the Jewish people themselves. He has never said that he will bar them from entry if they try and break those oaths. To do so would be to annul the oaths that He Himself has caused the Rabbis to take.

What will become of this false taking of the land by the rebellious Zionists is known only to God. Let us pray that God would have mercy upon them.

Craig Nielsen

ACTION FOR PALESTINE

Lessons from the Exodus

The great redemption event of the Old Testament Scriptures of the Bible is known as the Exodus, the story of which is contained in the book of the same name. To understand the message of this book, as well as the rest of the Pentateuch, is pivotal to a proper understanding of both Judaism and Christianity. The lessons learnt from this book, both theological and political, have far reaching consequences for today’s world. However, the consequences for one particular country, the Zionist State of Israel, are quite probably so dire, that one would assume that the book of Exodus would be required reading for every citizen of that country.

The story of the Exodus is hardly unknown in the western world. From Sunday school to DreamWorks Animation’s, “The Prince of Egypt”, most people have been exposed to the basic story of the Exodus. The Exodus is a physical as well as a symbolic example of Divine redemption. It is a redemption won completely by the hand of the Almighty. An unmerited act of favour bestowed on the descendants of Abraham by virtue of the gracious covenant made by God with the Patriarch some 400 years before.

The land of Canaan, promised to Abraham’s descendants by God, is still inhabited by a people not related to Abraham when the story line is picked up at beginning of the book of Exodus. Abraham is long dead, as is his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob. Jacob’s twelve sons have also perished and most importantly, a Pharaoh has risen in Egypt that knows nothing of the favoured position that Joseph, Jacob’s favourite son, had enjoyed in the courts of Pharaoh when the children of Israel first moved to Egypt to escape the calamity of an oncoming famine.

The Hebrews had been fruitful and had multiplied in number in Egypt up to a point where the Egyptians feared that the Hebrews large population would put in jeopardy the Egyptian’s majority rule. Egypt was wealthy, powerful and a noble civilisation. It was an empire that shone like a beacon in an otherwise dark and brutal world. Its system of justice and fairness to Egyptians left the other nations in a position of envy. But all that would be put at risk if the Hebrews were allowed to get the upper hand. Egypt would be overrun by uncivilised hoards and her glory would turn to ashes. Something had to be done by Pharaoh.

His answer was a combination of slavery and genocide. The children of Israel were put under the bonds of slavery to work for the Egyptian empire that feared them. But the more oppressed the Hebrews were, the more they multiplied in number and the more the fear of them increased in the hearts of the Egyptians. The more the fear of them increased the more the hatred of them increased. The descendants of Abraham cried out from under the bonds of the pitiless oppression they suffered. They cried out in anguish and God, remembering His promise to Abraham, came to their rescue. He came to their rescue not because they were a righteous people, deserving of mercy by their own virtue, but because of the unmerited compassion and love of the Almighty.

According to the plan of God, Moses was saved from the Pharaoh ordained policy of infanticide against God’s chosen people. But years later Moses, upon seeing the suffering of his people, reacted in anger and killed an Egyptian for abusing one of the Hebrew slave workers. He covered up the murder and fled into the wilderness trying to escape the consequences of his crime.

Years later God called Moses once again and after visiting the famous ten plagues on the Egyptians, the children of Israel were finally driven from their place of torment in Egypt by the edge of the swords of the Egyptians themselves. The Exodus narrative clearly demonstrates that the salvation of God came by grace alone, despite the faithlessness of the Hebrews. The Jewish people complained, “Were there not enough graves in Egypt that we had to be brought into the desert to die?” .At no stage did they display a trust or faith in the God who was saving them from the oppression they cried out from. Yet God in His grace never faltered in His mercy to them. His plan to save them was His choice, not theirs. He desired to take them as a people for Himself; to be a royal priesthood and a Holy nation and through them God would bless all families of the earth in His gracious plan to redeem all of creation.

At Sinai, God gave His people the Law. In numerous places in that Law God reminded His people of the plight He had rescued them from so graciously. He reminded them that all they had was due to the graciousness of God and not won by their own hand or by their own virtue. They were to be a people not like any of the nations of the world; the royal priesthood of the gracious God of Abraham. They were to be the people of grace, justice and mercy: A people who craved the grace and justice of God rather than the power, wealth and status desired by the nations. They were to have no King, God would be their King. Israel was not to be a meritocracy for it was never created by human means. It was to be a kingdom of grace.

God reminded the Hebrews of His mercy to them in Egypt whenever He commanded His people about how to treat non-Jews living amongst them. The entire story was to be a lesson in how to treat others different from themselves who shared the land of Canaan with them. Israel was never to behave like Egypt.

Fast forward to the time of Jesus. When asked why He ate and drank with sinners, Jesus told a story that has become one of the most beloved of all the New Testament parables: The Parable of the Prodigal Son. This parable of the father who spoiled his lost, undeserving, sinful, prodigal son when he found him once again was meant to sound strangely familiar to the Jewish religious teachers of the day. Not only was it a story of God’s love for the lost of Jesus day, it mirrored the story of the Exodus. Israel was and always has been the prodigal son of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God had always been redeeming and unconditionally accepting prodigals and Jesus was doing exactly the same as His Father.

Now fast forward to the present day. Has the Zionist state of Israel remembered the commandments of its prodigal son loving God?

In 1948 the Zionist State of Israel was created following the mandate of the United Nations in 1947. In previous generations Jews and Palestinian Arabs had been on good terms. Islam and Judaism had co-existed in the region for 13 centuries. But all that was about to change. In 1948, fifty five percent of the land of Palestine was given to the Zionists when Jews comprised barely a third of the population and officially owned only 6% of the land. But a huge problem remained. The numbers of Arabs in Israel put fear in the hearts of the Zionists. At the time of the creation of the Zionist State, the population of Israel was roughly 499,000 Jews to 510,000 Arabs. The Zionist State desired to be a democracy, a land of freedom that would be a shining example of civilisation in the otherwise barbaric Middle East. But all these Arabs would destroy the glory that was to be the New Zionist Israel. Something had to be done by Ben Gurion and his compatriots.

What they came up with was known as Plan Dalet. The ethnic cleansing of Palestine. The Arab world rejected the partition of Palestine because of the injustice it did to the indigenous Palestinians. Even before one Arab soldier came into Palestine to defend its native people, some 300,000 Palestinians had been dispossessed by Zionist forces. After six months of ethnic cleansing operations, nearly 800,000 Palestinians had been removed from their homes. Now the Zionists had a majority in Israel. The Zionists promptly demolished the houses of the dispossessed Palestinians so they could not return and within 2 years they enacted the Law of Return so that Jews and their spouses from anywhere in the world could come to Israel and gain full citizenship while the indigenous Palestinians, made refugees in 1948, could only watch in dismay. Now Israel could be a true democracy!

No move on to 1967. While stateless Palestinians sheltered in what was now only 22% of their original homeland, Arab nations sought ways to undo the damage done in 1948. In June of 1967, in response to Egyptian troops building up in the Sinai, Israel launched a pre-emptive attack on its enemies and in six days it defeated its foes and occupied the remaining 22% of Palestine. Now the Zionists had all of Palestine under their control! But there was a huge problem. The same one they and the Egyptians had faced previously. There were still too many Arabs. Israel wanted to be a shining light of democracy to the world and be a nation of power and wealth and military strength. But these Arabs were a bunch of barbarians and they would tare down the Zionist State and turn it into a sewer of Islamist demagoguery. Something had to be done.

This time they decided not to ethnically cleanse the remaining Palestinians in the occupied territories. No country would take any more refugees and the world was watching this time anyway. This time they would come up with another plan. They would keep the Palestinians in huge open air prisons with Palestinians running the prisons on the inside but Zionists holding all the keys and minding all the exits and standing on all the walls. If the inmates co-operated with their keepers they would be given privileges; they could go out and work in Israel for Israelis (so long as they had a permit). If they rebelled against their jailers, the riot squad would be sent in to deal with the trouble makers. If they did not stop misbehaving, the Zionists would lay siege to the prison until the will of the Palestinians was broken.

Now at last Israel can be a democracy! A shining light of freedom in an otherwise dark world of tyranny and hopelessness. Israel can now be like Egypt! Who better to be the jailers of Palestinian barbarians than the Zionists? Who else could deal with such a dreadful situation in such a civilised manner?

History has been utterly reversed. Now the Zionists sit in the seat of Pharaoh and proceed to strangle the life out of the Palestinians with the same sense of entitlement that motivated the Egyptian Monarch. The Zionist State of Israel has violated all the ethical principals that exist as conditions for the Jewish people’s occupation of Palestine. As Egypt was destroyed and Israel was later twice to be forced into exile by the hand of God, so the current State of Israel moves ever closer to the edge of oblivion as it rebels against its God given mandate to love the alien as one of their own native born. The lessons of the Exodus have been ignored by the Zionists. In reality, its message has been buried under a mountain of secular nationalistic idolatry and justified by the continual bombardment of Zionist interpretations of the meaning of the Shoah. This is no surprise to anyone who knows of the origins of Zionism. A secular nationalistic movement that sought to redefine Jewishness in a way that centred on nationalism rather than Torah values. As the Israeli intellectual, Boaz Evron once said, “Zionism is indeed the negation of Judaism”.

Craig Nielsen

ACTION FOR PALESTINE

Israel-Palestine: A Christian Response to the Conflict

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