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The Heart of the Matter
Its seems patently obvious to me that colonialism is something that must be resisted, in practice and in theory, by anyone truly concerned with human rights and human dignity. The act of any nation entering into lands, not previously lived in by the peoples of those nations, and claiming them as their own and in the process dispossessing those who previously lived there, is obviously reprehensible. We know this by the simple fact that we would not like this being done to us. Rabbi Hillel (1st century BC) tells us that
“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour. That is the whole Torah.”
And Jesus reminds us that:
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)
I can’t think of anyone who would not cry “injustice” if they were to be dispossessed from the land they had chosen to live in by people from another land.
Colonialism is not mere immigration. It is the act of taking for yourself that which is not yours. It is theft. It is an act of theft that verges on the act of murder as it places people’s very existence at risk.
While those who protest against asylum seekers coming to this country stir up fear in our community, they are very often the ones who say they cannot understand why some Aboriginals want to burn the Australian flag. They can’t understand why Aboriginals are upset over the history of land theft, dispossession and murder that they suffered at the hands of British colonialism. A history not properly acknowledged by vast numbers of Australians of non-Aboriginal heritage. These non-Aboriginal people would have no problem with the idea of burning the Japanese flag if Australia had been conquered and colonised by Japan during World War 2.
Apparently Aboriginal Australians should be thankful that they were colonised by the British rather than some “barbaric” nation.
Well, I guess a woman who gets raped by someone wearing a condom is possibly better off than a woman who has been raped by someone not “civilised” enough to use a prophylactic, but that is really not the point.
Some slave owners in America’s southern states did not abuse their slaves as others did but that is not the point either. The immorality and evil that slavery was and is, is not reduced by the fact that some slave owners were more humane than others.
Just imagine if an allegedly repentant rapist entreated his victim to forgive him and “get over it”, based on an argument that he deserves to be forgiven since he used a condom unlike other barbarians! One would be forgiven for thinking that this type of argument is not made in a true spirit of repentance and reconciliation.
As Christians, we recognise that the Gospel is a Gospel of reconciliation, not colonisation. If we seek reconciliation with others we will have no time for arguments like the ones used to justify British colonialism by non-Aboriginal Australians.
Christians recognise that God has reconciled us to Himself and hence we seek to live in reconciliation with others. This is the primary role of Christians in the world.
While others are first or even second, to go to or call for war, Christians should be the last, if ever, to do such things. When Christian Zionists are the first to call for war, we know that something is deeply wrong. If we have a theology that tells us that a certain people group are simply beyond reason and deserve nothing but destruction, we have entirely missed the very essence of the Gospel.
Christian Zionist dogma, proclaiming that Arabs, be they Muslim or otherwise, are in such a state of reprobation that we should not even attempt to try and see things from their perspective, is demonic heresy. Such mean spirited self righteousness betrays attitudes not inspired by the mercy of God to sinners.
And invoking images of the Nazis every time we speak of reconciliation with those who have deep grievances with the west is likewise dishonest and not in keeping with the Gospel of Christ.
Our mission as peace makers, not just peace lovers, is not abrogated by our eschatology. If it is, then our eschatology is wrong, not our mission of reconciliation. If the cause of reconciliation suffers the temporary setback of war, then we can only let this unfortunate occurrence inspire us to greater efforts in the future. Negativity and fatalism concerning the hope for a better future is not a fruit of the spirit.
Even many Christians, who are critical of the state of Israel, still go off on a tangent when discussing the rights of Palestinians and usually it concerns some idea about prophecy, the end times and the Zionist states roll in all of this.
My point is that such arguments are irrelevant when talking about our commitment to human rights, dignity and equality for Arabs and Jews. I would not remotely care if anyone could prove to me, beyond doubt, that the Zionist State of Israel is an unambiguous portent of the return of Christ. The belief that Israel is such a portent does not affect in the slightest whether or not we should be pursuing the cause of justice, peace, and equality for all in the Holy Land.
Jesus calls us to be ready for His return by ensuring that we are doing what we are called to upon his return. What we are called to do does not depend on how close we think we are to His return. Claims that Christs return is near should not affect our view of our neighbour and how we treat him. We would not want others to treat us poorly based on their understanding of prophecy or destiny and so we should not do that to them.
The other day I attended the wedding of some very dear friends of mine. The wedding ceremony was very moving as both the bride and groom asked those present to spend a moment in silence to remember those family and friends who would have dearly loved to have been present at the wedding but had sadly passed away, some in very tragic circumstances.
I couldn’t help but recall the following story from Orthodox Jewish History Professor, Yakov Rabkin’s book, A Threat from Within: A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism.
“On the very day that I was completing the French version of this book, a bride-to-be and her father, both observant Jews, where chatting in a quiet coffee house on the eve of the wedding. Suddenly, an explosion shattered their plans and dreams. In a fraction of a second, a Palestinian suicide bomber had claimed 15 lives. The following day, those who had been preparing to attend their wedding found themselves instead accompanying the bodies of the father and daughter to the cemetery. A passage from the prophet Amos rang out among the crowd that had gathered to honour the deceased: “And in that day – declares my Lord God – I will make the sun set at noon. I will darken the earth on a sunny day, I will turn your festivals into mourning and all your songs into dirges” (Amos 8:9-10) But unlike so many other funeral services for the victims of acts of terror, not a word of hatred or anger against Arabs could be heard. Instead, the spirit of meditation and introspection that mark the days preceding Jewish New Year pervaded the throng of mourners” (2006, p. 224).
I just couldn’t begin to imagine the response of the people at the wedding, many of them my friends, if anyone dared to harm Jessica or Mostyn (the bride and groom) on the eve of their wedding.
Jesus tells us to forgive and love our enemies and to pray and to do good to those who persecute us. Funnily enough the vast majority of Christians who demand that the Bible must be taken literally tend to balk at taking these types of passages literally when it comes to the actions of Palestinians.
This Orthodox Jewish family put many of us Christians to shame. It is Christians who are the custodians of the Gospel of Jesus, a Gospel of reconciliation, yet this Gospel has so often been perverted to justify racism, genocide and murder. Is it possible that Christian Zionists (or anyone else for that matter) can learn from this example?
This Jewish family chose to ponder why such things as these happen, looking first to themselves and their own conduct and the conduct of their country rather than letting loose with the same sort of hatred and racism that many on both sides have given themselves license to indulge in. Somehow for them, the ethical traditions of the Torah have taught them more about reconciliation than the New Testament has managed to teach many Christians.