A view from the Palestinian church

Human and national rights for the Palestinians are totally disregarded in favour of socalled divine rights.

But Israel is Christian!” Bill exclaimed after I had spoken to a church group during an adult Bible study session. I paused, never having heard it stated that way before, but Bill, in those four words, had summarized western Christianity’s unconditional support of the State of Israel against the rightful claims of the Palestinian people. It is widely believed in western churches, and taught in theological seminaries, that the Bible provides the title deed for the establishment of the State of Israel. The displacement of the indigenous people—which from the beginning was the intention of Zionism—is not only overlooked but also justifi ed. The establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 is often interpreted by western Christians as fulfi llment of prophecy. This view clashed painfully with the reality of our experience as Palestinian Christians. We were totally disoriented by our physical dispossession and displacement, by the loss of home and property, of homeland and identity, and by the negation of our history and memory. Our spiritual grounding, which we groped to hold onto, was pulled from under our feet. We were left orphaned, physically and spiritually. We felt forsaken by heaven and earth. Many people abandoned their faith when they most needed it. Many wanted to throw away the Old Testament because it was being used as an instrument of oppression against them. Bishop Kenneth Cragg, in his book The Arab Christian, has expressed it perfectly: “Christians in the west can have the exploits of Samson, Samuel, Saul, David, and Jahu and the rest, in lectionary and psalm, as ancient sagas happening to strange ‘heathen’ far away. Arab Christians have to accommodate them—if at all—in the immediacy of their own dispossession and exile. The biblical victims are their own people, their predecessors in the land.” Luckily, some brave people laboured to discern what God intended for both Israel and the Palestinian people. A Palestinian theology of liberation was born, which helped Palestinian Christians to hold onto their faith, to resist oppression non-violently, and to work for justice and peace. Sadly, many others left the land of their ancestors to fi nd peace in other countries, but could not escape Christian Zionism that denied the authenticity of their narrative. While Palestinian Christians yearn for a peaceful solution to the confl ict and bravely stand up for the human and national rights of their people, resisting oppression nonviolently, Christian Zionists work hard to thwart every peace effort because it stands in the way of their theology of a violent end time vision. Human rights that they would fi ght for in their own countries are dismissed in Israel and Palestine because the “chosen people” have divine rights that allow—or even mandate—them to have no mercy for the people of the land. By demonizing Islam and idolizing the State of Israel, Christian Zionist leaders are putting Palestinian Christians—who are an integral part of the Arab nation and of the Christian world—on the defensive, instead of using their ideal placement to further peace and understanding. While the international community works to end the Israeli occupation and reconcile the two sides of the confl ict, Christian Zionists encourage Israel not to give back any part of occupied Palestinian land and encourage the building and expansion of illegal Israeli settlements. In brief, Christian Zionists are changing the course of history in the direction of injustice and oppression. Human and national rights for the Palestinians are totally disregarded in favour of so-called divine rights. —Cedar Duaybis The author is a Palestinian

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