Recovering Evangelicalism – Seeking a Justice-based peace in the Middle East –

Posts tagged ‘Balfour’

Herzl, Weizmann, Jews and Faith

Theodor Herzl and Chaim Weizmann took a dim view of some of their fellow Jews; that is apparent from their writings.

Herzl and Weizmann may be regarded as key architects of Zionism, without them it may not have happened; would not have happened at the time and in the way it did. Herzl, in his writing and lobbying for ‘the Jewish State’ could be said to be substantially responsible for bringing form to a fairly vague hope. Even so, his ‘centre of gravity’ seems to have changed depending on which national leader he had been speaking to or was about to meet: the Kaiser, the Sultan, the French Prime Minister. Later, following Herzl’s early death,  it was Weizmann use of his wartime contacts with members of the British Cabinet who brought ‘the dream’ closer to reality with the declaration that has gone down in history associated with the name of Arthur Balfour.

There was much that Herzl and Weizmann disagreed about, but we don’t have to read between the lines to work out one area of agreement that ought to be quite worrying. Discounting ‘assimilated Jews’ who, for Weizmann at least, were either not ‘real Jews’ or were close to being traitrous, both seem to believe that Jews were incapable of living in harmony with any other group of people for any length of time. (In this regard it should be noted they seemed entirely ignorant of the experience of that body of Jewry that existed in the Middle East.)  Herzl was more upfront about this -in his diary he records that he and Max Nordau agreed that Jews were the cause of antisemitism, (this could, of course, be a circular argument), more background in my 100 day blog

Weizmann may have been more nuanced, recognising the contribution of such powerful advocates and financial supporters as Justice Brandeis in America and Samuel and Rothschild in Britain. Nevertheless it is there implicitly in his counter arguments to anti-zionist Jews who were concerned that Zionism put them in the position of ‘serving two masters’.  It is also there, almost explicitly, in the positions taken by successive Israeli governments, and especially in the language of Ben Netanyahu, who, following the Paris attacks, visited France and told the Jewish community in effect, ‘you can only be safe in Israel’. And the financial and political support given to Israel by Jews in Britain and America looks rather like ‘hedging their bets’.

Is there a theological perspective on this? One such might be the Ezra-Nehemiah-Haggai restoration ‘angle’, which is so anxious about assimilation that even talking to neighbours looks like treachery. Cooperation is impossible, and intermarriage is a cause for community remorse and penitence. Not much has changed in two-and-a-half thousand years. We are wise to notice that many of those neighbours would have had as good right to call themselves ‘Israelite’ as did the returnees.  But the message from the patriarchs was not so much ‘beware of foreigners’ as ‘beware those foreign gods’. Ancient Israel was not the only people to falter in making the distinction, it persists today. Israel’s ethnic mix is certain evidence that God is not concerned with ‘pure DNA’, (which we know today to be impossible).

The message to the patriarchs also contained indications often ignored, “and you shall spread abroad …” (Gen 28). Couple this with the covenanted expectation that, “if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession … you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation” (Ex 19), and we face an interesting and vital question: what could it, must it, mean to be a kingdom of priests? Word given to Jacob-Israel and to Moses must be taken seriously by God’s people; of any era. Surely a kingdom of priests is a mediating kingdom, since priests function as intermediaries between God and humankind. It is equally surely impossible to act as mediator whilst remaining utterly separated. The ‘separatedness’ of the Levitical priesthood did not cut them off from their fellow Israelites.

Jews, if they truly are inheritors of the promises to Abraham and Israel, must be dispersed, at least until their messiah comes. How can they fulfill this commission while they live in physical and spiritual ghettos. And a nationalistic ghetto can have no place in God’s ‘creation-economy’. This is an insurmountable problem for Zionism and its Christian manifestation. Not only do they misunderstand the prophets, not only do they, almost certainly unintentionally, sidestep the gospel; they fail to function according to the mandate to which they claim heritage. The genuinely religious Jews at least see the point and reject Zionism. They continue to wait for the Messiah who, for Christians, has already come.

The politically religious make selective use of the faith to justify a political outcome that suits their purpose; Jews are, or appear to be, safer. They have a point. Secular Jews make a claim, that logically should be rejected, based on a gift from a god in which they don’t believe.

The Christian Zionist claim is as disturbing as is Herzl’s belief that Jews are the cause of antisemitism. Implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, Christian Zionists believe that the presence of large numbers of Jews outside Israel delays the ‘Second Coming’, a term that has to be qualified because many of them seem to believe that the 2nd will actually be a Third. It seems that God’s timetable is subject to the travel arrangements of several million Jews who show little inclination to leave their homes and jobs in Britain and America to go the Palestine.

Strangely, especially for the Christian version of Zionism, the Jews at the time of Jesus had no difficulty in accepting dispersion, although it took the leadership, the Rabbis, a hundred years to catch up. Once the early church, almost wholly Jewish, got into its stride, it accepted the challenge to ‘go’, and went and told the world the good news of Jesus.  That good news was of righteousness and justice for all, especially the poor, the weak, the powerless, and this was exactly the mandate given to Abraham and to Jacob. It was exactly as anticipated by Israel’s prophets, although previously poorly understood. If religious Jews want to build a temple, Christian Zionism wants to help them – so that it can be destroyed.

Have they not understood that the temple was Messiah, and that his body was destroyed on a cross and was rebuilt after three days, exactly as Jesus prophecied, (John 2:13-22, cp Mk 9;31). If the Jerusalem temple, modelled on the tabernacle, was a teaching aid to earth the faith of Israel in the certainty of God’s presence, so the new temple of Jesus Christ exists to earth His Spirit through His people throughout the whole earth as testimony to God’s Great Love. That temple cannot be destroyed.

Zionism thinks that Jews cannot live alongside others and survive. God said, ‘spread out, sing the songs of zion, teach the world’. Christian Zionism is equally out of step with God’s timetable and plan. It is a Macabbean response two millennia after the failure of the first attempt. It was mistaken then and more of a mistake today since the Messiah has come and shown us the different way, the ‘Way of The Lord’. Both Zionisms are redundant, worse, they are counter-productive and undermine the gospel.

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Inspired by God

‘Malc’ commented on an earlier post that I ought to be ashamed for suggesting we (evangelical Christians) need to repent for the Balfour Declaration. I asked him what evidence he had to justify his claim that Balfour was inspired by God.I’ve heard none because there is none.

The shame I have, as I put in my reply, is for the evangelical church’s  complicity in evil and in undermining the message and the mission of Jesus. I’ll be following through some of those themes on a separate 100 day blog leading up to the centenary of the letter (2nd November) You can follow that blog here

If you live anywhere near the Midlands UK you might be interested in another date. On 28th October 2017, Claudia Prestel will be speaking at an event organised by Kairos Leicester. Her title,

‘From Balfour to the Present: 100 years of conflict’

Remembering 100

Why are centenaries so important?  Few remember what happened 100 years ago; some of us have difficulty recalling what we were doing 100 minutes ago, let alone 100 days or years. Even those who years exceed 100 were probably too young to notice much that was happening in 1917.  So, why remember?

For every family, community, people; memory is important. Our relationships are constructed from memories – good or bad. Whether as a family, a nation or a faith group it is memories that form our history and it is our shared history that binds each to the other. Most written history has been that which the rich and powerful wish to be remembered. The weak and powerless have been ‘dust’ swept aside to make space for the strong.

Ours may be the first generation in which the voice of ordinary people has been heard and, to a limited degree, noted. It’s only a limited degree. Children are still abused, enslaved to provide cheap goods, or trafficked as cheap bodies. Women in too many places, even in supposedly modern civilised nations, are still regarded as second-class, subservient, available playthings. And those with disabilities are praised for a month and ignored for 47, until the next Olympics.

So, why remember 1917; why would the UK government want to ‘celebrate’; why count down to November 2nd; why focus attention on a letter of fewer than 70 words?

Alongside the ‘good’ memories, the bad ones we remember most easily are those that hurt us most: when we are lied to, made promises that are broken, when we are treated ‘like dirt’. The letter from Alfred James Balfour to Lord Rothschild (the ‘Balfour Declaration’), dated 2nd November 1917 broke promises already made in secret to Sharif Hussein and to the French. (Subsequently further incompatible promises were made to the US and to the League of Nations).  Broken promises have a habit of coming back and hurting us. That is the case in the Middle East today. Ask why Britain and the US are not trusted by the nations of that region and you need look no further than the promise of democracy. One Hundred Years on from those broken promises, the only democracies we in the ‘moral West’ are prepared to tolerate are those who kow-tow to our commercial wishes. Whether in South America, Asia or the Orient, it is only acceptable if it fits our capitalist-militarist model.

So, Yes, I will be remembering, and I’ll be counting down to 2nd November; to the opportunities lost for peace with justice in Palestine and the Middle East. I will be mourning the moral failure of church and state in providing Zionism with a nation state at the expense of the people who were already there. I shall be sad at the ongoing persecution of a people whose only wrong-doing was to be at home, in the place where another, stronger and more violent people, wanted to be.

But, I shall also be celebrating. I will cheer for those Jews – some of whom I am privileged to count as friends – who stand up for the historic values of Judaism and who confront Zionism with passion and intellect. And I shall celebrate the Palestinian Church, the ‘Living Stones’, who refuse to be moved. I shall also hope. Hope that more and more Christians in UK and US will become aware of the evils that have been done in our name and in the name of our Lord, and who will stand up and speak out.

Not Quite Balfour

The Balfour declaration was a disappointment for the Zionist organisation in London, as will be seen from the formula which their Political Committee agreed and submitted on July 18 1917.

The text can be found in Weizmann’s autobiography (trial and error, page 256) see below:

‘His Majesty’s Government, after considering the aims of the Zionist Organization, accept the principle of recognizing Palestine as the National Home of the Jewish people and the right of the Jewish people to build up its national life in Palestine under a protection to be established at the conclusion of peace,following upon the successful issue of the war.

His Majesty’s Government regard as essential for the realization of this principle the grant of internal autonomy to the Jewish nationality in Palestine, freedom of immigration for Jews, and the establishment of a Jewish National Colonizing Corporation for the re-establishment and economic development of the country.

The conditions and forms of the internal autonomy and a Charter for the Jewish National Colonizing Corporation should, in the view of His Majesty’s Government, be elaborated in detail and determined with the representatives of the Zionist Organization.’

This is the same Chain Weizmann who wrote of the Jewish settlement, ‘whose loyalty to the democratic cause was not merely verbal, but expressed itself in action’. That the colonization of Palestine was in fact an undemocratic invasion is beyond contradiction. Elsewhere Weizmann shows himself to be contemptuous of the Arabs. but, for those unclear about Zionism’s motivations the above text is crystal; not a mention, not a reference, to the 93% of the population who were not Jewish. It was to be a ‘colonizing’ project, without regard for the indigenous peoples. This draft was submitted to ‘Mr. Balfour’ on July 18th 1917.  When, in 2/3 days time there is celebration for the ‘independence’ of israel, we will be wise to reflect, not merely on the cost of Balfour, but on the anti-democratic essence of Zionism.

Balfour re-visited: Broken promises

This is an edited re-post as we approach the centenary of BALFOUR

The correspondence between the Sharif of Mecca (Husayni, or Hussein) and Sir Henry McMahon, HM High Commissioner in Egypt, is clear: Great Britain…

promised an independent Arab nation in the whole of the Arabian peninsula bounded on the West by the Red Sea and Mediterranean, on the South by the Indian Ocean, on the East by the Arabian Gulf and the border with Iran-Persia, and the North along a line just south of parallel 37, subject to minor exceptions which included  Basra and Bahgdad; the Trucial States, and certain coastal  districts to the west of Damascus, Homs, Ham and Aleppo.

Earl Grey, Foreign Secretary during WW1, stated to Parliament in 1923

“I think we are placed in considerable difficulty by the Balfour declaration itself. … it promised a Zionist home without prejudice to the civil and religious rights of the population of Palestine. A Zionist home, my Lords, undoubtedly means or implies a Zionist Government over the district in which the hoome is placed, and if 93% of the population of Palestine are Arabs, I do not see how you can establish other than an Arab Government without prejudice to their civil rights. … I do see that the situation is an exceedlingly difficult one, when it (Balfour) is compared with the pledges which were undoubtedly given to the Arabs.”  Quite so!

In the same debate Lord Buckmaster remarked,   “I think we ought to say what we mean, and I think we ought to do what we say…. We certainly meant what we said in 1915. We did not do what we said in 1918″ and concluded that the British government should “go back to obedience to the promise that we gave at a moment when we were gravely beset by difficulties, to the relief of which the Arab help in no slight degree contributed”

On April 27th 1920 Field Marshall Viscount Allenby wrote (by telegram) to Emit Feisal:

“As regards Palestine you have always been aware (he was not), that His Majsty’s Government were pledged to creating a national home for the Jews in Palestine, an intention in which administration acquiesced. His Majesty’s Government will regard themselves as under an obligation which will be confirmed by terms of mandate to safeguard in fullest manner the interests of indigenous inhabitants of the country.”

In his reply, amongst other things Feisal points out:

“As regards …  the creation of a national home for Jews in Palestine … all that I have admitted is to safeguard rights of Jews in that country as much as rights of indigenous Arab inhabitants are safeguarded and to allow same rights and privileges.     Arabs of Palestine, both Christian and Mahommedan, have repeatedly availed themselves of every opportunity against any agreement or pledge that they would make their motherland the national home of Israelites.” 

Britain promised Palestine to the Arabs, we lied and we broke covenant. Scripturally, God regards any promise as made through him. We have taken in vain the Name of The Lord. Christ have mercy.

If you who are still wondering why the Mufti hated the British and sought help from Hitler in the 1930’s perhaps you should seek help not from history but from an analyst.

Proud to be bad – sad

Our — for the moment — Prime Minister is proud that our country has been responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, many hundreds of thousands of displaced people, and the largest refugee problem of modern times. Lacking status, but refusing to ‘disappear’ Palestinians deserve better than that we ‘celebrate’ the disgraceful letter from a British Foreign Secretary to Lord Rothschild in 1917.

Cause, not for celebration, but for sober rethinking of the kind of nation we are, the kind of people we want to be. Lord have mercy.

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