CHURCH LEADERS CONDEMN ISRAEL AND ‘CHRISTIAN’ ZIONISM IN PARTICULAR

Church leaders condemn Israel and Christian Zionism

Dr. Hanan Chehata

Church leaders condemn Israel and Christian Zionism. Easter was the perfect opportunity for Christians to reconsider their position on the Palestine/Israel conflict and many did. In South Africa, more than sixty church leaders and theologians showed their support for Palestine and expressed their condemnation of Israel’s apartheid policies by supporting the 2009 Kairos Palestine document. This was a paper written by Palestinian Christians and endorsed last December by many high-ranking church leaders. Citing the military occupation of Palestine as a “sin against God and humanity”, the Kairos document refers to the daily humiliation endured by Palestinians of all faiths at the hands of the Israeli regime and claims that the illegal Israeli settlements are ravaging Palestinian land. In doing so, it calls upon the international community and world leaders to withdraw their support for Israel and support campaigns to boycott Israel instead, and to compel Israel to abide by international law.

The renewed wave of support for Kairos coming out of South Africa is an encouraging sign that support for the Palestinian cause is not waning among the churches of the world. On the contrary, support for Palestinians in Christian circles is gaining moral traction and theological legitimacy. This is a very important trend, especially considering the fact that Christian Zionists have been among the most vocal and influential in support of the state of Israel. While there are only 15 million Jews worldwide, there are an estimated 50 million Christian Zionists and the loss of their support will have a profound impact on the overall stability and viability of the Zionist state.

Declarations of support for documents such as Kairos must surely compel Christian Zionists to re-examine their commitment to the state of Israel. The South African Christian response to the Kairos Palestine document frames its arguments in both religious and non-religious terms. In terms of non-religious arguments the South Africans address the building of the separation wall and explain how the apartheid state that Israel has created is now worse than the South African apartheid version ever was. They tell the Palestinian people in no uncertain terms, “From our own experience of apartheid, we can clearly and without equivocation say that your situation is in essence the same as apartheid and in its practical manifestation even worse than South African apartheid.” Consequently, they call upon all of the communities of the world to support the boycott of Israel and they call upon their own government to cut some of the “sinister” ties that regretfully exist between Israel and South Africa.

For those Christians who would welcome some clarification from their church leaders on what their religious stance should be on the whole Palestine-Israel conflict, the declaration issued last weekend presents the situation in unambiguous theological terms. The church signatories had no hesitation in “declaring the occupation a sin and evil”. Furthermore, they profess to the Palestinian people that, “for this sin to be committed in the land where Jesus was born, raised, where he ministered, was crucified, rose and ascended, makes it necessary for us to take your situation even more seriously. Jesus must be weeping at the injustice that he sees in Jerusalem”. In fact, the declaration goes so far as to declare that modern day Christian Zionism “can only be described by us as a modern-day heresy”. The signatories say that “this kind of Christianity” serves to “make the Christian faith a servant of an evil ideology”.

The South African response is also significant in that it addresses the matter in terms of “repentance”, thus echoing the call of the 2009 document which issued “a call to repentance; to revisit fundamentalist theological positions that support certain unjust political options with regard to the Palestinian people. It is a call to stand alongside the oppressed and preserve the word of God as good news for all rather than to turn it into a weapon with which to slay the oppressed”. These are all extremely strongly worded statements which will not have been issued lightly and which should not therefore be taken lightly. They show just how serious theological condemnation is becoming for those who support Israel from within the ranks of Christianity. This is a welcome development from a faith that professes love, humanity and morality above all else.

Easter was indeed the perfect time for this declaration of support to be issued. Not only is it the time for revitalised spirituality for many Christians but it also arrived this year at a time of frustration for many Palestinian Christians who were prevented from celebrating their holy days freely as a result of Israeli-imposed restrictions in the Holy City. As Britain’s Amos Trust reported, “Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Holy Fire Saturday and Easter Sunday are the holiest days celebrated by Christians in Jerusalem, but through road blocks in the old city and a police presence with machine guns, as well as rude and hostile attitudes from police and army officers, Christians are increasingly being restricted from being able to move freely.” Although obviously most frustrating for Christians at this time, the situation serves as a reminder of what all Palestinians go through every day of the year under the oppression of the Israeli colonialists.

It is promising that the view of Israel as an apartheid state is gaining ground. It has already found a foothold amongst student organisations and civil society bodies, trades unions and so on; it is encouraging, therefore, to see religious groups also take more of an interest in what is happening in the Holy Land. As this view takes hold, the less legitimacy Israel will have.

In an article in the Financial Times, Mustafa Barghouthi wrote, “Even Israel knows there is no future in apartheid”. He pointed out that in 2007 Ehud Olmert (the then Prime Minister of Israel) said, “If the day comes when a two-state solution collapses and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the Territories) then, as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished.” That day of reckoning may very well come for Israel in the same way that it came for the apartheid regime in South Africa, and much sooner than the Israelis think. The more Israel denies the human and legal rights of the Palestinians, be they Christians or Muslims, the more it will be viewed with the same revulsion as the Jim Crow era in America and the apartheid era in South Africa. The only way for Israel to save itself from such a poor image and censure is for it to change its policies and grant the Palestinian people their rights once and for all. Until then, the Kairos Palestine document and similar attempts to bring Israel to account for its oppression of the Palestinian people should be supported and proliferated worldwide with renewed vigour based, for Christians especially, on a fresh spiritual momentum and theological justification for such a position.


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6 Comments

  1. April 8, 2010 at 16:48

    What grieves me about this is that it has taken so long to come to fruition. Why did it have to take so many acts of atrocities against the Palestinians before people who have ostensibly dedicated their lives to the sanctification of life could come to the conclusion that the acts of the Israeli government was in violation of basic human rights laws?

    The Christian message has been – seemingly – hopelessly distorted in such a way as to remove the social consciousness of its message, which particularly suits the ‘Christian Right’ (the ‘wrong’) of American politics and the Christo-Zionists that so staunchly support the Zionist government of Israel, even when their actions border on genocide and ethnic cleansing that their nation has gone to war against in order to prevent.

    Unfortunately, the original message was completely different: Jesus presented a Gospel of social justice that outlined what could easily be described as a proto-socialist system for the sharing of wealth and provision of services for ALL people. The perpetuation of crushing poverty by those purporting to ‘love the Lord’ is, in a word, bunk. As for these leaders coming out in support of the Palestinians, their move is welcome, but the question must be asked: why did it take so long? What were you waiting for, did you think Israel was going to change its mind all of a sudden, of its own accord?

    The idea that the Zionists could rise above the ingrained brutality that they have been expressing for generations is a pipe-dream, the height of naivete, and the ultimate expression of hubris. I find it difficult to believe that these Christian leaders could really be that blind to the problems in the middle-east that they could take this long before deciding it is necessary to condemn the actions of the State of Israel.

    My prayer is that this is not a ‘too little too late’ action. The real problem remains the American Christo-Zionists who control hundreds of millions of dollars that gets funneled directly to various Zionist causes, including the settlements in the West Bank and other hotly contested Palestinian areas. We need to convey to these so-called Christians that the man they call Jesus preached a message that was inclusive of all God’s creation, not those called ‘Jews’ – the message of the Gospel was a message of peace, not war, a message of reconciliation, not division.

    The Christo-Zionists have perverted this message in favour of one that they have crafted ‘in their own image’, a gospel that suits their theology of wealth and spiritual independence (where Christ preached dependence).

    Ultimately, the best that can be said about this move is: it’s about time.

    Wie viel ist Aufzuleiden!

  2. Frances Robinson said,

    April 8, 2010 at 18:58

    BEST NEWS THIS YEAR!! VIVA PALESTINA!

  3. hannibal said,

    April 8, 2010 at 22:15

    The Christian churches are weak. Look at what the media is doing to the Catholic Church. Who controls the media?

    The banks are Zionist. For as long as the banks rule, Israel will reign supreme. If you don’t want to support Israel financially, you’ll have to stop using banks.

  4. Joe Gall said,

    April 8, 2010 at 22:47

    Good for you, true Christians.

    It’s no mystery why the Catholic Church was attacked during Easter.

    The same enemies who crucified Christ two thousand years ago are working their evil today.

  5. Holocaust Gaza said,

    April 9, 2010 at 04:21

    @Joe Gall – Sure it was convenient to attack the Catholic church on child abuse cases, but these are two different problems. The child abusers in the Catholic church will face the legal process, but the perpetrators and murderers of Palestinians will be still covered by UN/US perpetrators.

    It is better to leave the religion out of this.

  6. Ld Elon said,

    April 9, 2010 at 14:29

    Your right, i take heed of Adams first wife.


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