I first visited Israel-Palestine in the Autumn of 2007 and I returned horrified and angry. Horrified by what I’d seen and heard; angry that I’d been let down by media and by the church. Why was such clear injustice not reported; why was the church not speaking out. More than that, why was the church supporting the oppression, because that is what it looked like. On my return visits I have heard Palestinian Christians show their dismay and grief that their fellow Christians in the West ignore their plight, even regarding them as ‘terrorists’.
Returning home that Autumn I was determined to learn more, and as I read – history, politics and theology – it became clear to me that I had lived most of my life during one of the worst and least understood outrages in the history of Christianity and ‘western democracy’. Are we aware, for instance, that the United Nations, founded on the principle that people have the right to choose who governs them, in one of its first acts gave the land of one people, the Palestinians, to another people from Eastern Europe, Jews.
The plight of Jews and Christian complicity in their persecution over hundreds of years in Europe surely could not justify handing over the land of Palestine, occupied by 1.5 million Palestinians to 600,000 Jews; could it? For some Evangelical Christians in USA the issue was simple theology, the land was God’s gift to the Jews dating back to Abraham; “If God wills it don’t get in the way.”
As I saw it the issue was one of justice but, as a good (hopefully), evangelical Christian I wanted to re-examine the theology. How and Why had the Good News of Jesus been perverted and polluted to become very bad news for Jews, Muslims and Eastern Christians?
My first question was simply, ‘what about the Cross?’ I’d long since realised that the Jews had no particular right to Palestine, (I just hadn’t realised how dreadfully they’d behaved in getting it!). The book we call the Bible, and especially the Christian part, the New Testament, is pretty clear that Jesus, the Jewish Messiah comes to fulfil the prophets. The disciples on the road to Emmaus heard how Jesus, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets…interpreted…. the things about himself in all the scriptures”. (Luke 24). All the gospel writers, after the event, are clear about what it means, why else would Luke record the words of Simeon and Anna, (Luke 2). And Paul, who had to be convinced by an act of God on the way to Damascus, opens his letter to the church in Rome, a gathering of Jews and Gentiles, by speaking of “the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who…was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead…” (Romans 1). When Jesus cried “it is finished”, it was not a statement about his death, of defeat, it was a cry of victory – job done. Evil has been confronted, death has been defeated, God has won the victory.