Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category
(Edited from Original post of September 2016)
My Objection to Zionism has nothing to do with Jews as a people group. It isn’t Jews I have a problem with but the ideology that some Jews, (and sadly, some Christians) hold. I have to oppose Zionism because it is racist, exceptionalist and militarist. These should not be attractive characterstics for evangelical Christians, (like me), although they will be if you have an affinity with e.g. KKK, BNP, Frances FN or any other ethnic supremacist party, (whether white, black or other).
Zionism claims that it is simply about the rights of Jews to live in a land of their own, which sounds reasonable until we examine what that means in practice. The fact is that the land most Jews in Israel-Palestine now live on and the land they are taking away daily by building settlements is land where another people, Palestinians, live and have lived for many generations.
The Zionist arguments in justification are exceptionalist – the Jews are special (that, by the way, is not the same as the ‘chosen people’ argument. Most of the early Zionists were secular socialists). Zionists believe that Arabs are inferior, not just different. It is only necessary to listen to their descriptions, ‘snakes’, ‘rats’, ‘dirty’, etc. That is racism.
Thus, to defend Zionism is to give comfort to a system that denies the inherent equality of humankind — contradicting both creational monotheism (Hebrew) and the Christian Gospel — and demands special treatment for one people group, Jews, over all others, especially Palestinians. Defending Zionism is to support an ideology that achieves its aim of occupying all the land through overwhelming military force – the ‘Iron Wall’ and retains control by militaristic, economic and political oppression. It is to praise a system that allows democracy only when Jews are in a substantial majority. Militarist, racist, exceptionalist, it is utterly at odds with true Judaism and as far as can possibly be from the Sermon on the Mount. (Mt 5-7) and the commssion Jesus gave his followers.
The claim that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitic reverses logic. The real anti-Semitism is the claim that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitic. Put it simply; because in its inherent nature it defines all Jews as racist, militaristic and exceptionalist it is Zionism that is anti-Semitic.
Last evening, Nov. 7th 2017, people gathered at London’s Royal Albert Hall to celebrate the Balfour Declaration of 2nd Nov. 1917, as ‘Partners in this great Enterprise’. Christians and Jews together celebrating the creation of modern Israel and the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population. Maybe some of my readers will be upset by that description but if we are honest it is difficult to put any other interpretation of the facts.
Gathering inside, a mighty congregation; well, actually not so mighty. One member of ‘Raised Voices’ commented that there didn’t seem to be many people going in. I’d calculate no more than 2000 including performers, (a 600 member choir from Denmark?), in a venue that can hold over 5,000.
Outside? A very mixed bunch. Handing our leaflets was difficult, especially when RAH security backed by a massive police presence insisted we could not hand out leaflets on private property. When I was able, most people refused, were not interested in a Palestinian Christian viewpoint. Some, did take leaflets and some, a very few, seemed genuinely interested in a different perspective; they were mostly younger people.
There were pro-Israel demonstrators outside as well, including the couple from Ireland who’d ‘entertained’ us on Saturday, (not sure whether they’re sectionable, but probably harmless). One woman and her friend became quite aggressivly verbally angry when she read the banner I was carrying. The text ran as follows: ‘Biblical Christians reject imperialist, exceptionalist, Zionism. Exceptionalism is racism, “There is no distinction …” If God will not, we must not.’
What infuriated her, I believe, is that I was, ‘standing on her ground’ – ‘Bible-believing’ Christians take all God’s word seriously, and that means Zionism, the rest of us must be ‘liberals’ who don’t really believe anything and can’t really be Christian. So when I say I am a bible-believing Christian she refuses to believe it, I must really be a ‘toy’ of the ‘Muslim extremists’ who were chantinf ‘Free Palestine’ just a few metres away. More to say maybe, later, but now it’s time for a little relaxation and a coffee.
The State of Israel was founded and has been sustained on deceit, terror and racism, (I expect many will disagree but the facts are well established). With ‘Balfour’ round the corner, what is there to celebrate?
Are Jews safer? Than what – Bergen-Belsen? Of course they are; but, if their own reports are to be believed, they are not safe. They don’t seem to feel safe; in London, Paris, not even in Jerusalem. That they are better protected than 80 to 150 years ago is beyond question and is right. But, in establishing a Jewish state on another people’s land, in the process killing many, expelling a multitude and producing the largest and longest refugee crisis in modern times, ‘Jewsishness’ lost its soul. In becoming Zionism, as Zionists insist, Judaism became a contradiction.
Atheistic men used a promise from a god in whom they didn’t believe to justify Judaism’s right to land occupied and possessed by Arabs, the Palestinians. They claimed a messianic ‘right of return’ in the absence of the ‘messiah’ contrary to Rabbinic teaching that had sustained the community for over 1700 years.
The part played by Christians in this disaster cannot be under-stated. Evangelical Christian support for Zionism and Zionists was crucial in moving it from being a tiny and rejected minority view to becoming what is now the centre ground. Many Jews at the time suspected that what has happened would happen. That Jews outside of Israel would be suspected of favouring the ‘Jewish’ state over their own home nation. Oddly too, considering that Christians are supposedly ‘Gospel’ (good news) people, a version of Zionism is now ‘mainstream’ for many Christians. Criticize Israel and you are likely to land in hot water with the leadership.
What is to be done?
Despite the seeming negative tone above, let’s look at the positives. Whatever we may think about its beginnings, the state of Israel exists. Similarly, many of our modern nation states seem to have been put together rather in the manner of a three-year old playing with his older brothers’ left-over Lego bricks.
What we need is a more just, a more even-handed approach, and that cannot be left to our leaders, whether in government or church. A solution is needed that brings justice for Palestinians, including the many millions of refugees, without creating further injustice for innocent Jews. There will be some; there are; who claim that there are “no innocents on the other side”. That won’t do. It will be wiser, more generous, more hopeful, more truthful, more just, for all to accept some of the blame. There are some, no doubt, who must be held to account, although how that should happen must be carefully thought through. There is no point laying up more trouble for the future.
And it does mean that we should demand from the media and from our leaders, whether in church or government, that they be less one-sidedly strident in criticism of Palestinians, and more functionally critical of Israel, which is by far the more powerful agency in the situation. By ‘functional’ I mean not just talking the talk. We have been quick enough to punish the weaker party when they seem to support terror, but we have done nothing when the stronger party acts provocatively.
Hearteningly there are people of peace on both, (or is it all) sides, and their voices need to be heard. Let us find them, make space for them, and give them the support they need. The centenary of Balfour should be a time for reflection, not celebration, a time to determine to work with what is best in Judaism, in Christianity, in Humanity, for peace with justice.
It will be obvious to my many readers, (or ‘my reader’), that there are many things I don’t understand. For instance, ‘eschatology’; lots of Christians today seem to think it’s a recent invention. “Hey Folks, Look Out, we’re in the Last Days; didn’t see that coming did you?”
But the NT writers know about eschatology, including Paul if his answer to the Thessalonian Christians is anything to go by. But it’s also there in the gospels, “be ready” (Matt 25). So, then, if Paul wanted us to be ready for ‘the End Times’; and there’s lots of evidence he expected it soon; why don’t we hear him saying to the Jews, “hurry up and get back to Israel so Jesus can come back”. If the NT record is anything to go by the idea never crossed his mind. “Jesus is the Messiah, follow him”, time and again, but never, “haste ye back to Jerusalem”.
If having Jews back in the land of the holy one was that important we’d expect to see a mention of it in the writings of the Christian New Testament. But there’s not even a whisper of a hint. Get it?
Richard Spencer, as reported in Ha’aretz, makes clear what has been evident to many of us for years, Zionism is racist nationalism. Uncomfortably, Israel’s nationalism is compromised by Jewry’s ethnic diversity; uncomfortable, not least, because of historic parallels. Israel invites Jews anywhere and everywhere to ‘come to Israel’, but they’d better be religious and orthodox at that. Spencer wants to protect white Americans. Black ones, many of whose families came under duress (polite way of not mentioning ‘slavery’) hundreds of years before Mr.Trump’s family, can go back where they came from. Not that that is always easy to work out – black people can be ‘mixed heritage’ too. The parallels Spencer draws are not liked by Zionists, which doesn’t mean they aren’t accurate. Nationalism is nationalism whatever other label is attached: alt-Right (=white supremacist) for America, Zionist for Israel; I don’t know what term Mugabe uses for black Zimbabwean’s but I’m pretty sure he’s got one.
Spencer is probably happy to call himself a ‘white zionist’ as long as the real ones go to Israel and stay there. Nationalists can unite – as long as they do so at a distance. At the period in history when we are most inter-connected fear of ‘the Other’ causes many to look for simplistic solutions. Simple solutions are available; typically they are ones used by bullies. They are short-sighted and therefore short-term. We need wise people as leaders – where are they?