Posting this link because Robert Cohen is spot on.
Posting this link because Robert Cohen is spot on.
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?
The latest from my count-down blog on the Balfour Centenary. To return to ‘Malc’ and his comment. Of course it is possible that God can use heathen pagan’s to carry out his will. That’s clearly the case in some of the Old Testament writings. But who does what is not the point at issue, which is, how can we discern God’s will in these matters?
In many of the books I’ve read – pro and con – the writers, if Christian, tell of an incident or an experience pointing in a direction. Then, following prayer and Bible study they understand God to be calling them in a particular direction. That is my story. I didn’t choose to be spending my time fighting for justice for the Middle East. It was an entirely unexpected direction from God, ‘well he would say that, wouldn’t he?’, which is precisely the point. How can we tell when many apparently Godly men and women hold opposing views of what God is doing?
Both sides will assert, rightly, that Bible study and prayer are crucial. Are there other clues or hints that will point us in the right direction? I believe there are, for starters:
First, never assume that our understanding of ‘the Word’ is the right or only one. I may be wrong or only partly right, and I can often learn, even from people with whom I fundamentally disagree.
Second, look for the bigger picture, starting from the Bible. Many of our sectarian problems began when people, especially in Britain, gained access to God’s word in English and read it bit by bit and literally. Stand back, read whole chunks, then read them again, and again in a different version.
Third, and always, try to see what God has done, is doing and will do. What is the story of the Bible; the over-arching narrative that underpins all else.
Fourth, what are the things that contradict or get in the way of our Spirit-enabled mission to the ends of the earth?
Returning to ‘Malc’ and Balfour inspired, No, I don’t see how it fits. Given our Jewish Messiah and given the gospel and our ambassadorial mandate (Acts 2 following Matthew and Luke), if Balfour was inspired it was not from God.