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Desmond Tutu, formerly archbishop of the Anglican Church in South Africa and a well-known anti-apartheid activist, is one of those people that accuse the state of Israel of practicing the crime of apartheid when it comes to how Palestinians are being treated. This is a quite controversial accusation though, even if it is supported by several human rights advocates and academics, it has also received a lot of criticism, since the situation in Israel and Palestine is noticably different from the South African case.
Mitchell G Bard from Jewish Virtual Library points at the fact that around 20% of Israeli citizens are Arabs that have equal rights compared to Jews and other people groups in Israel. Arabs and Muslims are represented in Knesset, in the courts and at the universities. FW De Klerk, former South African President who together with Nelson Mandela ended apartheid, also says that because of this reason it is unfair to call Israel an apartheid state. “You have Palestinians living in Israel with full political rights. They are represented in the Knesset. You don’t have discriminatory laws against them, for example that they may not swim at certain beaches or anything like that.”
However, people who use the apartheid analogy to describe Israeli policy usually discusses how Palestinians are treated by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza rather than how Arabs are treated within Israel. The thing is that race actually can equal nationality according to international law. The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which Israel along with most other countries has signed, defines racial discrimination as “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life” (emphasis mine).
I involuntarily get a lot of updates from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in my social media feeds, since I follow other Christians and some of them think it’s godly to share and retweet war propaganda (frankly, that’s what military forces’ public messages are, per definition). IDF regularly updates how many rockets are being fired from Gaza and how far they reach, but not so often what destruction these rockets cause. And this is of course because most of them either miss or get shot down. Whenever they hit something though, IDF immediately shares it on Twitter:
Well… it sure sucks for those people living there, but personally, I wouldn’t kill 200 children because of that. IDF started “Operation Pillar of Defense” before one single person had been killed by the Palestinian rockets. During the conflict though, three Israeli civilians have unfortunately been killed, and IDF could provide some more disturbing images: (more…)
In this fifth part of the Promised Land blog series, we will look at what the Bible really says about the land of Canaan, a.k.a. the Holy Land, a.k.a. Israel/Palestine. Christian Zionists are often convinced that God wants the Jewish people to possess Gaza and the West Bank, since these areas were included in the biblical land of Israel that God gave to the Jewish people. They say that this divine promise is eternal, and that it must be fulfilled before Jesus returns. A few even think that Israel will possess an even greater area, from Egypt to the Euphrates (including Syria, Jordan, Iraq and parts of Saudi Arabia).
This belief is affecting the current conflict in the Middle East in huge ways. Jews and Christians who are convinced that Gaza and the West Bank rightfully belongs to Israel are often skeptical towards a two-state solution, and they do not criticize the Israeli settlements or the occupation and blockade of Palestinian territory. They have strong lobby groups in both Israel and the US, and even though politicians are more pragmatic, it has been shown very clearly that American and Israeli politics have been shaped by these ideas.
Let us look then at what the Bible actually says about this. The land of Canaan is first mentioned in the book of Genesis, when God calls Abram from modern-day Iraq to resettle in the west. “To your offspring I will give this land.” He said (Gen 12:7) In Gen 15:18, He clarifies what land we’re talking about: “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates”, and in 17:8, He clarifies how long this covenant will last – forever! “The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.” This promise is later transfered to Jacob, or Israel (Gen 28:3-4). That settles it right? Israel has eternal, divine right to all Palestinian areas, as well as to Jordan, Syria and Iraq. Ka-boom!
Stephen Sizer is one of the most influential critics of Christian Zionism, and he has done some extensive research both on Israel and the holy land in the Old and New Testament, as well as the history of Christian Zionism and the present conflict in the middle east. I can highly recommend his Bible studies and other articles where he effectively challenges Christian Zionism and present an alternative Christian response to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians that is based on peacemaking, reconciliation and love for all people.
In this video, Sizer is interviewed by Allan Lee, who is clearly pro-Israel but who tries to hold his arguments back in order to listen to Sizer’s reasoning. I’m very impressed by Sizer in this video, he gives a very balanced, respectful and convincing impression when he argues for peace, justice and a biblical viewpoint on Israel.
When Lee talks about the threat of islamist terrorism, Sizer points out that we should ask ourselves why people become terrorists and argues that if we want a secure and peaceful Israel, we should work for justice for Palestinians. When Lee discusses how several Palestinian leaders haven’t recognized Israel, Sizer agrees with that it’s a problem but points out that Israel has never defined its borders and has not recognized a Palestinian state. And when Lee brings up how Gen 12:3 says ” I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse” as an argument for standing with Israel, Sizer points out that those words were to Abraham, and according to Gal 3:16, it’s fulfilled not many people but in Christ.
In a time when many Christians are eager to support everything Israel does due to bad theology, Sizer’s input is very welcome to the debate, and I hope this video can convince some Christians to be more balanced, biblical and peaceful when it comes to Israel and Palestine.
The Promised Land is back! In the previous parts of the series, we have looked at the origin of Christian Zionism, we saw that it was totally absent in the early church and we have discussed how important it is to realize that just because one isn’t a Christian Zionist, one isn’t necessarily an anti-Semite (and shouldn’t either). Now, we will turn to exegesis to see what the Bible has to say about Israel and the Promised Land. Let’s start by discussing God’s Chosen People.
Israel is the name of a man, Jacob, and it was used to describe his descendants. These were expected to believe in the Lord, and thus be God’s people, but they were actually not the only ones that belonged to Israel. This is something Stephen Sizer has pointed out (and the following account is based on his works): the requirement to belong to God’s people was and is primarily faith, not race. In the Psalms, we read:
“I will record Rahab and Babylon among those who acknowledge me—Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush—and will say, ‘This one was born in Zion.’ Indeed, of Zion it will be said, ‘This one and that one were born in her, and the Most High himself will establish her.’ The Lord will write in the register of the peoples: This one was born in Zion.” (Ps 87:4-6)
Here, we see that Egyptians, Iraqis, Palestinians, Lebanese and Ethiopians all can be recognized as “born in Zion”, receiving full membership and citizenship of God’s people, if they acknowledge the Lord. Already Moses said in Deut 23:7-8: “Do not despise an Edomite, for the Edomites are related to you. Do not despise an Egyptian, because you resided as foreigners in their country. The third generation of children born to them may enter the assembly of the Lord.” In Esther 8:17 we read “And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them.” The requirement to belong to God’s people was faith, not race or nationality.
For the rest of the blog posts in this series, go here.
In the previous part of this series we looked at how the theology of Christian Zionism, which claims that the Jewish people must return to the land of Israel before the second coming of Christ, is very young. Its roots are found in the 16th century and its developed form didn’t appear until the 19th century. However, most Christian Zionists don’t view this as a problem, since they believe that this was not the birth of the theology but its resurrection – Christian Zionism was the original church teaching about the role of Israel, and the Puritans and Dispensationalists simply rediscovered it.
However, the early church did not believe in Christian Zionism. None of the church fathers, neither any anonymous early Christian writings, argued that the Jewish people must return to Israel before the second coming of Christ. On the contrary, they were supersessionists, teaching that Christ had fulfilled the covenant with and promises to Israel and that these now belonged to His followers, the church.
The non-existence of Christian Zionism in the early church is rather indesputable, even most Christian Zionists themselves acknowledge this. They claim that the apostles believed in Christian Zionism, but that it was immediately lost. I call this “The Men in Black Theory”. Just as the movie agents use their neuralyzer to erase people’s memories, Christian Zionism was suddenly deleted from the collective mind of the whole church right when the final pages of the New Testament was written.
For the rest of the blog posts in this series, go here.
Israel should of course have all of the land that God gave them from the beginning, and then there is no space left for a Palestinian state.
This comment appeared two days ago on my Swedish blog in a discussion about the conflict in the Middle East. And this guy is not alone, millions of Christians think that it is God’s will for the Jewish people to possess all of the Biblical land of Canaan once more in order for Jesus to come back. While I honour their zeal against anti-semitism and passion to follow God’s will, I have to disagree with them.
In my opinion, Christian Zionism is not only unbiblical but it has had, and continues to have, very serious consequenses in the Middle East. In a blog series of approximately eight parts called “The Promised Land”. I will dig deeper into what Christian Zionism is, what it has led to in the Middle East and what the Bible really says.
In this first part, we will look at the historical origins of Christian Zionism. Benjamin Corey writes:
For those who grow up in churches that preach the Church and Israel distinction, this theology seems as if it is a normal part of orthodox Christianity, and never gets questioned. However, the truth is that this theology is a new theology and is not part of orthodox Christianity.
This theology was popularized by denounced heretic John Nelson Darby in the 1800′s. Darby is considered the father of dispensationalism, which is a dwindling subset of American Fundamentalism. Dispensationalism is a collection of extra-biblical beliefs (such as the “rapture”) which is typically known by a preoccupation on the end of the world, and a pessimistic worldview. Among Darby’s heresies included this new idea that God had two, simultaneous covenants, one for Jews and one for Gentiles.