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Most conservative Christians in the West have heard of Bill Hybels and the Willow Creek mega-church in Chicago, Illinois in the U.S.A. Bill Hybels books on Christian living and church growth have sold millions of copies and his church has been voted the most influential church in America. The following article was written by his wife, Lyn Hybels. http://lynnehybels.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/the-israeli-palestinian-conflict-six.html

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Six Things I Believe

This paper was presented to a gathering of Palestinian Christians, Israeli Messianic Jews, and American Christians and Messianic Jews on December 5, 2013.
 
In 2010 I spoke at the first Christ at the Checkpoint Conference in Bethlehem.  I gave a talk called “It’s All About Jesus: A Personal Journey.”  I chose that title because my engagement in the Holy Land was a very personal attempt to follow in the way of Jesus.  I had been spending considerable time in the region and was broken-hearted by the suffering that resulted from ongoing and often violent conflict.  I believed that what Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs, needed most was to see Jesus incarnated in his followers in the Holy Land.  I came to Christ at the Checkpoint with the desire to encourage and lift up the Christians in the land.  To stand in solidarity with them.

I had learned by that time that this issue could be theologically controversial.  I was still caught off guard, after my talk, when a Messianic Jewish theologian from Israel told me he believed I had totally violated scripture by talking about the plight of the Palestinians. He reminded me that God had given the land to the Jews, and if the Palestinians were suffering it was because God’s will regarding the land was being violated. If I thought the treatment they were receiving was unjust it was because I didn’t understand God’s purposes in the world.

It was a very awkward and disturbing conversation.

Now, fast-forward two years.  In 2012 I spoke at the second Christ at the Checkpoint conference.  Again that same Messianic theologian approached me afterwards. I assumed we would again have an awkward conversation.  

But instead, he said, “Thank you for that talk.  That was a great talk.  In fact, I think you should give that talk to some of our Jewish congregations.” 

What happened during the two years separating those conversations? 

What happened in me is that a very wise friend—actually a Palestinian Christian—challenged me to spend as much time with Israelis as I had been spending with Palestinians. 

So I began doing that. In subsequent trips I met with secular mainstream Jews.  I met with people in the Israeli peace movement. I ate Shabbat meals with Orthodox families. I talked with Israeli families who’d lost children to the violence of suicide bombers.  I listened to the perspective of Messianic Jews.  Perhaps most significantly, I walked slowly through the halls of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.   

In my second talk in Bethlehem, I described those experiences.

I also said, “I will never bring a group of people to visit Israel and Palestine again, without taking them to Yad Vashem.  How can we begin to understand this place without holding the reality of Jewish history in our conscious awareness?”

So, my heart had been broken on a deeper level for the Jewish people and that came through in my talk—and made a difference to the Jewish theologian.

What also happened during those two years was that the Jewish theologian spent time with Palestinians in the West Bank, and he actually saw the reality of their daily lives.  He said to me, “I still support the State of Israel and believe the Jews have a unique role to play in God’s redemptive plan.  But the kind of injustice I’ve seen in the West Bank, and that you have described in your talk, is unconscionable. It can’t continue. But few Jews actually know what’s going on here.”

That story—of those two very different conversations—is so encouraging to me.  I’ve been similarly encouraged by many people with whom I may disagree on some points of theology, but for whom I have the deepest respect, because they manifest a level of compassion and wisdom that challenges and humbles me. Honestly, when it comes to my engagement in the Holy Land, I’ve been blessed by gracious mentors from many different directions. 

At the same time that I’ve been encouraged, however, I have also been greatly discouraged—especially recently—by the increasing number of blogs and articles and emails written about or to me that question not only my theology, but my motives, my calling, and my intelligence. 

I’ve been called a threat to the state of Israel, a subtle (and therefore extremely dangerous) anti-Semite, a spokesperson for the PLO, and a Christian Palestinianist who traffics in anti-Israel propaganda and historical misinformation. 

And I’ve been described as part of a massive effort in the heart of the evangelical church to lure its members—especially its youth—away from the pro-Israel position God commands to an uncritical and unbiblical support for Palestinians. 

I am not new to the world of criticism. Forty years ago my husband and I started a church in a movie theater where we used drums and guitars in worship.  We were immediately denounced by the evangelical establishment that called us a cult and warned its young people to stay away from us. Since then, we’ve taken plenty of other actions that many people deemed worthy of criticism. Generally we don’t respond to our critics, unless they approach us personally. If we responded to every anonymous or public criticism, we would have little time to do anything else.

But, rightly or wrongly, I feel that I need to respond to the criticism related to my involvement in Israel and Palestine.  I’m choosing to do it in this setting, not because I believe my harshest critics are here; I don’t think they are.  But the recent criticism has challenged me to strip down my message and say very clearly what I mean and what I believe about the conflict. I’m doing it here because this is supposed to be a forum where we can speak honestly, if we do so carefully.

I want to clarify that I’m not speaking on behalf of my husband, my church, the Willow Creek Association, World Vision, The Telos Group, or any other organization with which I might be associated.  I am speaking strictly as an individual.
 
In the next few minutes I’ll make six “This Is What I Believe” statements.  Each of these statements deserves extensive discussion, which we don’t have time for today. So this is basically an outline, which needs to be developed more fully in another setting.

1. I believe it is possible to be truly pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian at the same time.  On my first meaningful trip to the region both Israeli and Palestinian leaders said, “This is not a zero-sum conflict; in the Holy Land, nobody wins unless everybody wins.  Either Israelis and Palestinians learn to live together, or we will die together.  If you’re here to pick a side, go away.  We don’t need that kind of help.  But if you are willing to figure out how to be a common friend to Israelis and Palestinians, then we welcome you.”

With each trip I make to the region my commitment to that perspective grows.

When I say I’m pro-Israeli, I mean that I support the existence of the State of Israel as a home for the Jewish people.  I want Jews to be able to live there without the fear of rockets falling from Gaza, or suicide bombers attacking civilians, or any other kind of violence against them.  In a world in which anti-Semitism is, tragically, still alive and well, I am thankful for the State of Israel. The fact that I may disagree with some of the policies of the government of Israel doesn’t mean that I’m anti-Israel or anti-Jew, anymore than my disagreement with certain policies of the US government means that I’m anti-US or anti-American.

When I say I’m pro-Palestinian, I mean that I believe the Palestinians have an equally valid right to live in the land and should have the same civil rights that are afforded to Israeli Jewish citizens, whether that’s in one state, two states, or however many states.  I believe Palestinians should be free from military occupation.  They should be able to travel freely between their own communities, engage in commerce, and have easy access to the outside world.

2.  I believe that if we want to engage in the Holy Land as peacemakers, we must recognize that Israelis and Palestinians have very different, and often conflicting, histories and narratives, each of which must be sought out and respectfully heard.  I have been accused of trading the Jewish narrative for a false Palestinian narrative.  I have to say, I just don’t understand that accusation.  How could two groups of people on opposite sides of a violent conflict not have different experiences of what happened, and different memories? 

When you pay attention to both narratives, it’s easy to understand why the Jews would want a homeland and why they feel they have a legitimate claim to the Holy Land based on biblical promises.  And it’s easy to understand why the Palestinians feel they have an equally valid claim on the land based on centuries of residence in the land.  

Certainly, either narrative can be mythologized and distorted and used to demonize the other.  So, part of our task as people seeking peace is to listen with a discerning ear, to study well, to question what we hear, and to learn from a wide variety of people. 

About year ago in Bethlehem I had just such an opportunity.  I attended a meeting of Palestinian women, both Christian and Muslim.  There were two speakers at the meeting.  One was an Israeli Messianic Jew who traveled into Bethlehem, actually breaking the Israeli law that forbade her to go into the West Bank, because she was so determined to meet with these Palestinian women. The other speaker at the event was a Palestinian Christian woman.   Each of these women, in turn, described the typical narrative that is commonly held by her people, and then she critiqued it. 

The Jewish women said, “You won’t like what I’m going to say, but this is what most Jews believe.  They believe that Jewish violence in the war of 1948 was purely defensive; Jews were simply defending themselves against Arab aggressors.  But before you get mad at me, I need to tell you that I realize that is not true.  The tragic truth is that in 1948 many Arabs were aggressively forced from their land and/or brutally killed by Jewish fighters.” She said, “Admitting this makes me pretty unpopular with some Israelis, but we must be open to self-criticism.”

The Palestinian woman described some of the hardships of the occupation, but then she said, “We Palestinians tend to think that all our problems are caused by the occupation.  But that’s not true.”  She said, “We must accept culpability for allowing a victim mentality to dominate our actions and for making many poor choices along the way that have hurt us collectively.”  That was hard for some of the Palestinian women to hear, and they discussed it at length.  But at the end of the meeting they asked to meet again so they could continue such discussions.

It was such a privilege to be able to sit in on that meeting.  How admirable, how wise, how courageous, for these women to be willing to listen to the narrative of the other and also to critique their own.  Surely, they are laying a foundation for peace, and modeling that for all of us. 

3. I believe biblical theology leaves room for Jews and Arabs to live together as neighbors and equals in the land. I recognize there are differing theologies of the land, based on differing hermeneutical approaches.  These differing theologies often appear to be at odds when it comes to the question of who rightly belongs in the land that we call holy. 

I hesitate to speak about this because I’m not a theologian, and I can’t enter theological battles.  But I so appreciate a book written by two people who will be speaking here: Salim Munayer (Palestinian Christian) and Lisa Loden (Messianc Jew).  They edited a book called The Land Cries Out, which includes essays by a wide variety of Messianic Jews, Palestinian Christians, and a few international voices.  There are many different theologies of the land presented in this book, but because most of the writers actually live in the land and deal with the complexity of reality, they speak with the careful, nuanced voices that complexity requires.

Some of the essayists make a strong case that the birth of the modern State of Israel in 1948 and the ingathering of the Jews to the Holy Land is a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy that’s tied to end time events and the second coming of Christ; other essayists have different ways of looking at that.  But running throughout all the chapters of the book was an image of Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians, living together in the land in peace. 

For some of the writers (including both Palestinian Christians and a number of Messianic Jews), that peace could conceivably be manifested, to a degree anyway, in the two-state solution that is being discussed in current peace talks.  For others, that vision of peace is for a time far in the distance, when Jesus’ Kingdom is here in fullness.

But what strikes me as critically important is that people with different theological perspectives, who are willing to look at reality honestly and think carefully, can envision Jews and Arab living peacefully and equally as brother and sisters. 

4.  I believe that the ongoing military occupation of the West Bank and the continuing blockade of Gaza is a violation of human rights; as such, it deeply harms the security, freedom, and dignity of both peoples. The very fact that I use the word “occupation” has led some people to judge me as an enemy of the State of Israel; they have told me the only “occupation” is the one perpetrated by the Arabs who are occupying the land of Judea and Samaria that belongs to the Jews.

I won’t try to argue with the religious logic behind that claim, but I will say that I know many Israeli Jews who believe that the occupation is wrong; that it violates their Judaic ethic; that it breeds hostility and undermines security; and that it has to end. 

Just last week I read an op-ed by an Israeli journalist, an American Jew who moved to Israel as an adult because she loves Israel and wants to live there.  She wrote, “Why can’t ‘pro-Israel’ mean anti-occupation, support for human rights, equality, democracy for all peoples under Israel’s control?  Why should we perpetuate the conflict, by supporting Israeli government policies that perpetuate the conflict?”  She suggests, in fact, that that’s about “as anti-Israel as you can get.”

Some of my critics say that people who talk like the woman I just quoted, are left wing radicals that we as Christians should not be aligning ourselves with, or they’re self-hating Jews who should be silenced.  I can only say that I’ve met some left wing radicals who are also ardent Zionists who seem to be wise and compassionate people and who, in their words, are patriots who are fighting for the soul and security and integrity and future of their country.  I may be wrong, but I respect them and I think their voices ought to be heard in America.

5.  I believe that any violence against civilians, whether carried out militarily or through guerrilla tactics, is illegal under international law, damages prospects for peace, and should be stopped immediately. I want to state that clearly, because my critics have asked why I don’t spend more time talking about Islamic extremists and Hamas and the battle between Muslims and Christians.  Part of my reason is that I think we hear plenty about that.  I have no desire to give more airtime to the voices of violence.  

The other reason is that I’ve traveled to the Holy Land specifically in search of those who are committed to nonviolence, forgiveness and reconciliation.  Interestingly, those voices of peace have come from a variety of directions.  While I believe Jesus is the Prince of Peace whose power will ultimately unleash peace, I have met Muslims and Jews, who may or may not give any conscious consideration to Jesus, but who seem to be living out Jesus’ ethic of peacemaking.  In fact, they often challenge me to take Jesus’ way of living more seriously.  As I get to know them and become friends with them, I pray that the gentle community we create will become a space in which Jesus can do his best work of healing, redeeming, and transforming each of us in the ways we most need.  

6.  While I do pray for the peace process that’s now going on, and I hope there is some positive outcome from that, I acknowledge that our work for peace is not dependent on what happens in official, political peace talks—not because what happens politically is not important, but because what happens on the grassroots level of relationships is even more important.  And we are all positioned perfectly to make a difference there, as we build little enclaves of peaceful relationships from which peace can bubble up.

Several weeks ago, thirty American, Israeli and Palestinian women met for two days in Washington DC.  We were Christians, Muslims and Jews, religious and secular, youngish and oldish—united by our commitment to human rights in the Holy Land.

Some of the Palestinian women had been criticized by their friends in the West Bank for attending a meeting with Israelis, their oppressors.  Some of the Israeli women had been criticized by their friends for attending a meeting with Palestinians, their enemies. Some of the American women showed up at the meeting licking wounds sustained from journalists who wrongly judged our character and motives.

So, there was a rather high degree of emotional “rawness” in the gathering.  While that rawness could have pushed us all to put up protective barriers, it actually had the opposite impact.  There was an unusual level of honest communication and vulnerability, with Israeli and Palestinian women talking about the fears they have for their children and the loneliness they often feel as women committed to peace and reconciliation.  

There was a particularly profound connection between a young Palestinian woman and an older Israeli woman.  They were both psychologists, highly educated and articulate, but neither could quite contain their emotion as they spoke.  

The young Palestinian woman described what it was like to send her teenage son through a checkpoint, knowing that he would feel frustrated and humiliated; she feared that the humiliation, repeated over and over again, would turn him into an angry young man, maybe even a violent young man.  She tried to keep him away from checkpoints, but she couldn’t keep him locked in one little neighborhood.  So she feared for his future.

The older Israeli woman described what it was like knowing that her teenage grandson was an IDF soldier, standing at a checkpoint with a gun in his hand, terrified of using the power of that weapon, and yet terrified not to.  She didn’t want him to become the oppressor, but he was.  She feared what that would do to him, inside. 

The two women agreed:  “We are both victims of this conflict, this occupation, this ongoing tragedy.  We are both victims of the fear that sets our people against each other.”  

Then the Israeli woman spoke out of the wisdom of her years: “But look at us here,” she said, “in this room.  Today we talked about our fear, and instead of fear driving us apart, it has brought us together.  We need to keep talking with one another, deeply and honestly.  We need to use this fear to draw us together.”   I have to tell you there was magic in that room.  I have nothing against men, but I’m not sure that magic would have been felt in a roomful of men. 

The only thing that saddened us was knowing that, despite the wonderful connection we had in Washington DC, once the Israeli and Palestinian women went back home there would be no place for them to meet—except, one of them joked, at a checkpoint.  Interestingly, that idea of “pitching a tent of meeting at a checkpoint” became sort of a metaphor for our remaining conversations that day.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it continues to describe our future meetings.

I’m telling you this because I left that gathering deeply moved by the potential women have to establish healing relationships, and to advocate for human rights in a profoundly personal and captivating way.

One thing we speakers were asked to do in our presentations today is to share what we believe we can do for the sake of peace.  I have concluded that one of the most valuable things I can do is to create more and more connections between Palestinian, Israeli and American women—which will be my focus in the future.

Mother Teresa said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

My goal will be to remind American and Israeli and Palestinian women that we do, in fact, belong to each another, and together we can do a work for peace that we could not do without each other. 

That is my vision for the future.

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Supporters of the Zionist State of Israel continually affirm that Israel is a state of democracy and tolerance, surrounded by barbarian hordes. An enlightened “western” nation that is forced , on a daily basis, to fight for its very survival against not only the Jihadist terrorists from the Muslim world, but the anti-Semitic protestations of liberals and phony progressives in the west. The following article, by a Palestinian Christian, paints a somewhat different picture. The article was first published on the Mondoweiss website.

Mar 15, 2012 06:45 am | Fida Jiryis

Amb. Michael Oren’s article, ‘Israel and the Plight of Mideast Christians,’ presents Israel as a tolerant, dove-like, and peaceful democracy. This is belied by the facts.

I am one of those Palestinian Christians living inside Israel to whom Oren refers. At no time in my life have I ever felt the ‘respect and appreciation’ by the Jewish state, which Oren so glowingly references. Israel’s Christian minority is marginalized in much the same manner as its Muslim one or, at best, quietly tolerated. We suffer the same discrimination when we try to find a job, when we go to hospitals, when we apply for bank loans, and when we get on the bus — in the same way as Palestinian Muslims.

Israel’s fundamental basis is as a racist state built for Jews only, and the majority of the Jewish population doesn’t really care what religion we are if we’re not Jewish. In my daily dealings with the State, all I have felt is rudeness and overt contempt.

Oren’s statement that ‘The extinction of the Middle East’s Christian communities is an injustice of historic magnitude’ is outright shocking to anyone familiar with even the basic history of how Israel was founded. I would like to remind him and others that this founding expelled thousands of Palestinian Christians from their homes in 1948 and displaced them, either forcing them to flee across the border or making them internal refugees. The ethnic cleansing of Palestinians that comprised the founding of Israel is, too, an injustice of historic magnitude. A man living in a glass home — or a home stolen from Palestinians — should think very carefully before tossing stones.

My cousin’s husband, Maher, is from Iqrith, a village a few miles from mine in the Galilee. His family, and all of Iqrith’s inhabitants, were expelled from their village in 1948 and Iqrith was razed to the ground by Israeli forces on Christmas eve, 1950, in a special ‘Christmas gift’ to its people. The timing of this destruction leaves one to wonder at the intended message. Maher was born years after his family took shelter in Rama, a village nearby in the Galilee. Today, he struggles with finding a place to build a house to live in with his wife and children. Israeli policies that severely restrict the building zones in Arab towns and villages result in land shortages impeding the population’s natural expansion. Limiting land to residents of the same town or village means that internal Palestinian refugees face severe housing discrimination.

The return of people like Maher has been made impossible by Israel, which refuses to negotiate on the right of refugees to return to their homeland. If Oren is so concerned for Palestinian Christians, would he kindly give the green light for the return of Christian refugees from Iqrith, Bir’im, Tarshiha, Suhmata, Haifa, Jaffa, and tens of other Palestinian towns and villages that they were expelled from in 1948? The answer, I assure you, is no. Many of these refugees are living in refugee camps in nearby countries, where Israel and Oren are happy to leave them.

The terrorists referred to in Oren’s statement that ‘Israel, in spite of its need to safeguard its borders from terrorists, allows holiday access to Jerusalem’s churches to Christians from both the West Bank and Gaza,’ are in fact Palestinian Christians living on the land that Israel has occupied — in flagrant opposition to all human rights charters — and from which it is refusing to withdraw its soldiers and illegal settlers. To applaud Israel for giving people permits to travel across what by law is their own country is the height of hubris.

His claim that ‘In Jerusalem, the number of Arabs–among them Christians–has tripled since the city’s reunification by Israel in 1967’ fails to mention Israel’s relentless policies of cracking down on Jerusalem: building unending settlements; building a Separation Wall that slices right through the city, severing its families, neighborhoods and businesses and hitting hard at its Arab economy; seizing Arab lands and expelling families that have lived on them for generations; and revoking the citizenship of any Palestinian resident who travels abroad for too long. Imagine the outcry if an American citizen traveled abroad for two years and upon return discovered that his citizenship was revoked and that he had lost his American ID and passport.

Israeli officials don’t care whether the Palestinians they discriminate against are Christian or Muslim. It is true that inter-religious strife is on the rise in a region long tormented by poor living conditions, for which the West bears significant responsibility having aided the region’s many dictators.

Oren’s faux tolerance and crocodile tears over the plight of Christians fool no one. Were he serious, I would urge him to have a close look at Israel’s policies of occupation and racial discrimination.

As Jesus said, ‘Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?‘ (Matthew 7:3)

Why are Christian Zionists  more Zionist than Christian?

You might think that Christians would tend to stick up for each other when the crunch comes, but in the case of Christian Zionists, they abandon any sense of solidarity with their Christian brothers and sisters for their allegiance to the Zionist state of Israel. Western Christian supporters of Israel pretend that Palestinian Christians (along with their resistance to the State of Israel) do not exist. I can’t think of any other time when Christians do this sort of thing on such a grand scale and with such zeal. In general, if you ask conservative Christians to betray their Christian brethren for the sake of an ideology that is secular, and more resistant to the preaching of the Gospel than any number of socialist countries, you would likely have more luck if you asked the family cat to explain Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

They unconditionally support a state whose secular ideology they do not even remotely understand. Even Noam Chomsky has noted that the vast majority of Zionists are not even Jewish. How often do you come across an ideology with the majority of its supporters  not only not understanding its fundamental concepts, but actually holding to beliefs that are contradicted by that ideology?  Christian Zionists are clearly more Zionist than they are Christian even though they don’t know what Zionism really is.

The Christian Zionist “love” of Israel is completely self serving. Many Jews, regardless of whether they support Israel or not, consider the Christian Zionists to be anti-Semites. Politically useful anti-Semites, in the eyes of  Zionist Jews, but still anti-Semites nonetheless . It would not be the first time that Zionists have enlisted the help of anti-Semites to further their political goals in Palestine and it probably wont be the last.

The Israeli state is a Zionist state and the Jewish supporters of Israel tell us that Israel can only exist if it is a Zionist state. If Zionism fails, then Israel as a nation will collapse. Zionist ideology has always demanded that a Zionist state must be a state with a permanent Jewish majority. This follows from the racist notion that Jews and non-Jews can not live together.

Israel must be a state for all the Jews of the world, not of its citizens. Israel is not a state for Arabs in the same way that it is for Jews, even Jews that don’t live in Israel. Any Jewish person in the world has rights to nationality and citizenship in Israel, while Arabs, regardless of how long they have lived in Israel-Palestine, can only have rights of citizenship. Israel has a two tiered concept of citizenship. At least 20 laws discriminate in favour of Jews against non-Jews. Extensive benefits are conferred to any person who has served in the I.D.F. and since very few Arabs ever serve in the I.D.F., this means that enormous benefits end up with Jewish people exclusively in Israel.

What is it about a democratic Israel, that exists for all its citizens equally, that Christian Zionists do not like? What part of Christian Zionist theology would be compromised if Israel granted full citizenship and nationality to its Arab citizens in a manner identical to how it now treats its Jewish citizens? Which part of the Schofield Bible would be contradicted if Zionism was renounced in Israel and the Palestinian refugees were allowed to return or given compensation? Why would Christian Zionists be disappointed  if Arabs (Muslim, Christian or secular) returned to the same peaceful and respectful relationship with Jews that they enjoyed in the Middle East in centuries past?

For Christian Zionists, a two or one state solution is an abomination before God. What they want is no solution. The only solution they desire is an Apartheid Jewish State with an Arab population firmly under the oppressive thumb of extremist right wing Zionists. Arabs in Israel are not people, they are an obstacle.

There is not one scripture in the Bible that demands that Israel never be a state equally for all its citizens. The Zionist doctrine has come from the twisted ideology of a group of European Jews who rejected the Torah and it’s values of compassion toward gentiles. As such it can not last, so why not save everyone from a lot of suffering and back the winner…that is …God’s justice for all His people, Jew and Gentile.
Craig Nielsen

ACTION FOR PALESTINE

The Moral and Biblical insanity that is Christian Zionism

The rapturous applause of the U.S. Congress for the unctuous nonsense that poured from  the mouth of the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in recent days pales into insignificance when compared to the out and out idolatrous behavior of philo-Zionists like John Hagee. Even the Israeli Knesset  would not indulge their own Prime Minister in such a manner as  the U.S. congress let alone the hysterical ravings of those Christians who wrap themselves in a Zionist flag and sing Hallelujah.

I believe that the Christian Church in the U.S., and the church in those countries who choose to follow their example, are facing the greatest danger of  spiritual, moral and ethical collapse that has been seen in the Christian world for the last 500 years. This collapse into intellectual and theological bankruptcy is no doubt being lead by the Christian lobby that has replaced worship of its Savior with an allegiance to the state of Israel that would make David Ben Gurion blush. This insane devotion to the Zionist state forces Christians to abandon virtually every spiritual and ethical boundary for which they have been known for over the last 80 years. Like a co-dependent lover who can’t see that their relationship is destroying them, the Christian Zionists drown their own inner voices of conscience to the sound of praise for a secular state that opposes the preaching of the Gospel within its borders with greater vigor than Cuba or Venezuela ever have. The Zionist state forbids professing Christians to migrate to Israel. Similar behaviour by Arab states gets a firm rebuke by the religious right,citing this as evidence of the anti-Christ like nature of Islam as well as justification for supporting the state of Israel.

Advocates of the Christian right are almost universally supporters of anti-abortion doctrines. Laws allowing for abortion rights are deemed satanic and are frequently equated with Hitlers extermination of the Jews of Europe in  the Holocaust. Yet Israel, seeing itself as a liberal democracy, made in the mold of civilised Europe, allows some 40,000 abortions every year. It is the only country in the region that has pro-abortion rights legislation yet once again the Christian Zionist movement has suddenly nothing to say about the matter.

Attempts to bring universal health care to the U.S. have found their most ardent opponents being members of the religious right. Universal health care is seen as just another step down the dark road to Socialism. Yet the Israeli system of universal health care is never held up as an example of Godlessness in action by right or left wing religious conservatives in the west.

The religious right is often very skeptical about the so called Christian confessions of their political leaders, particularly if they are black and Democrat. They hate to see religious belief being exploited by those whose real goal is the attainment of power, status and wealth without true belief in the God of the Bible. They want their Christian political leaders to be the “real deal”. Yet Israeli leaders can be out and out atheists who clearly use biblical texts to bolster their arguments while in truth seeing those biblical texts as being nothing more than myth and legend. Once again they do this without a word of criticism by the Christian Zionist masses.

Professor Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin of Ben-Gurion University is alleged to have once made the sarcastic comment, “Our claim to the land could be put in a nutshell: God does not exist, and He gave us this land.” Any such comment showing such open cynicism and exploitation of biblical belief by U.S. politicians would ensure their political doom.

Religious right doomsday prophets routinely predict the demise of the U.S. due to its abandonment of biblical ethics and values regardless of the fact that it was Moses and not George Washington who stood on Mount Sinai and accepted the covenant made with them by God regarding the land their people was to inhabit. No curses of destruction of the U.S. nation for abandoning the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are revealed in the Old Testament. Yet the very nation whose destruction IS promised in scripture if they disobey the commandments of God, continue to reject both Torah values and the acceptance of Christ without a word of warning by Christian Zionists.

The Christian Zionist disdain for the U.N. continues regardless of the fact that it was the United Nations that created the state of Israel and that the U.N. Charter is deeply dependent on values obtained from the Christian and Jewish scriptures. U.S. Evangelicals that support Israel speak of a Jewish people “returning home” when in fact the Jews of Europe who went there during the Zionist migrations to Palestine would have not known Hebron from Albuquerque. The hundreds of thousands of Palestinians ( now numbering in the millions) who were forced to leave their actual brick and mortar residences in Palestine during the ethnic cleansing that took place in 1948, are considered to be illegitimate candidates for citizens of the land where  they were born even though they still have the keys and the land title deeds to the houses they once occupied. Even if the Palestinians did leave of their own free will at the command of their Arab leaders (a point clearly refuted by the indisputable evidence from the archives of the Israeli  Defense Force) the Israelis have no right to deny them return.

I have personally spoken to hundreds of Muslim followers regarding the Israel-Palestine issue and never once have I detected any hatred of Jewish people or animosity towards Christians. Yet the Christian Zionist world continually derides the Islamic faith and paints the picture that it is Muslims who are bred to hate Jews and detest all forms of the Christian faith. I am a Bible believing Christian and I have been invited to speak to Muslims on a number of occasions about the Israel-Palestine issue. I have always been able to talk about my own faith in Jesus without fear of being persecuted while at any of those meetings. It has been my experience that Muslim people have done everything to respect my faith. This obviously is not the case in all parts of the Islamic world but it is certainly true in many instances. It has NEVER been my experience for Christian Zionists to respect the beliefs of Muslims. No Muslim has ever told me that Jesus is damned, while I have heard Christian Zionists scream, at the tops of their voices, that the prophet Mohamed is in hell, in public places like Rundle  Mall in the heart of Adelaide during rush hour. Whom is it that is being disrespectful of whom?

Muslims recognise that many Arabs in Palestine are Christian and even Hamas has allowed them to join them in government in Gaza. Yet these Christian brethren have been totally ignored by the religious right in the west. Their persecution by the Zionist state is not  a topic for discussion. Stories of Christian persecution in the Middle East are never allowed to include the suffering of Palestinian Christians at the hands of the Zionist state.

If the Zionist state of Israel ever falls, then I believe the Jewish people will still flourish in the rest of the world (even in the Middle East). Christian Zionism, however, will be consigned to the already huge pile of kooky and dangerous ideas that Christians have managed to invent out of their distorted understanding of the Bible. Zionist Israel is more important to Christians Zionists than it is to the Jewish people themselves. The CZ’s are more Zionist than Israel. Their lack of tolerance for those different from themselves and for the oppressed of the world makes them less Christian than the truly Islamic.

It has been said that the attitude of the U.S. to Cuba is like the attitude of a werewolf to a full moon. It suffices to say that the  Christian Zionist cult-like devotion to Israel does not permit them to be able to dispassionately debate the Israel-Palestine issue. I have discovered this, to my dismay, on too numerous instances to mention.

Craig Nielsen

ACTION FOR PALESTINE

Israel-Palestine: A Christian Response to the Conflict

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