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Home arrow Blog arrow March 2009 arrow March 20, 2009

March 20, 2009
March 20, 2009: My response to the LA Times duo of op-ed essays by two American Jews with diametrically opposed views of Zionism.

Lay down your guns

All your daughters of Zion
All your Abraham sons
I don't know if I can make it
I'm not easy on my knees
Here's my heart and GAZA broke it
We need some release, release, release
We need
Love and peace
Love and peace-slight paraphrase U2's Love And Peace Or Else


On March 15, 2009 the LA Times published a duo of op-ed essays by two American Jews with diametrically opposed views of Zionism. [1]

What follow is mine as an American Christian with Jewish roots but no Arab blood.

The topic was Zionism and anti-Zionism. What both sides missed was the need to move beyond the
ideological regurgatative arguments that have resulted in blindness to the brutal reality of terror known by every child, mother and innocent one caught in the crossfire of violence.

The debate itself was a red herring; a diversionary tactic that ignored many human dimensions, such as the individual culpability of every USA tax payer.

Benefits to Israel of U.S. Aid
Since 1949 as of November 1, 1997!

Foreign Aid Grants and Loans
$74,157,600,000

Other U.S. Aid (12.2% of Foreign Aid)
$9,047,227,200

Interest to Israel from Advanced Payments
$1,650,000,000

Grand Total
$84,854,827,200

Total Benefits per Israeli
$14,630
Cost to U.S. Taxpayers of U.S.
Aid to Israel

Grand Total
$84,854,827,200

Interest Costs Borne by U.S.
$49,936,680,000

Total Cost to U.S. Taxpayers
$134,791,507,200

Total Taxpayer Cost per Israeli
$23,240

In addition, there is the more than $1.5 billion in private U.S. funds that go to Israel annually in the form of $1 billion in private tax-deductible donations and $500 million in Israeli bonds.[2]


The LA Times, op-eds also neglected to address the crucial need for negotiations to enable an equitable, just and peaceful future for both Israelis and Palestinians.

The fierce urgency of now calls for an honest third broker for peace. One who can lay out a plan to guarantee the political freedom of Israelis and addresses the Israeli fear of being politically overwhelmed by the obvious shifting demography which must be wed to reparative justice for the Palestinians; equal human rights and the honoring of international law. Only then can peace and security be more than a dream; an illusion.

Only in America is the Palestinian narrative not known. I also contend that we are living George Orwell's 1984 nightmare and we all suffer the effects of a holocaust hangover. Wake up time requires the light of the brutal truth.


On Feb. 23, 2009, Bill Corcoran, president and CEO of American Near East Refugee Aid/ANERA, spoke about his recent trip to Gaza, "I was looking at the aftermath of a tsunami. Two-story homes that you or are would have lived in comfortably were totally demolished their former occupants are living in tents in the rubble, with no water, sewage or electricity…I was shocked [over the sight of the American International School] the school is a 100% loss…All eight of Gaza's cement factories in every location were destroyed." [3]
 



On Nov. 8, 2006, Israeli born scholar Dr. Ilan Pappe, spoke in occupied East Jerusalem:
 
"To claim Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East is bullshit! The Six Day War of 1967 escalated the ethnic cleansing and today in Jerusalem every Palestinian who fails to pay taxes, or has a minor infraction will loose their citizenship.

"In 1948 the mechanism of denial and ethnic cleansing as an IDEOLOGY, not a policy but a formula began. When Zionism began in the 19th century it was meant to be a safe haven for Jews and to help redefine Judaism as a national movement, not just a religion. Nothing wrong with either of those goals!


"But by the late 19th Century it was decided the only way these goals could be achieved was by ridding the indigenous population and it became an evil ideology.

"Israeli Jewish life will never be simple, good, or worth living while this ideology of domination, exclusiveness and superiority is allowed to continue. The mind set today is that unless Israel is an exclusive Jewish State, Palestinians will continue to be obstacles. However, there has always been a small vocal minority challenging this.

"The only thing that can save Palestinians is for the world to say ENOUGH is ENOUGH! The way to challenge and change the ethnic cleansing is to pursue true democracy and the use of sanctions and divestment, for money talks."



I have not been beyond the Erez checkpoint to Gaza, but on July 23, 2007, I was in Jenin camp. I visited in the homes of a few of the underground Fatah; not the Fatah that rolls up the windows of their Mercedes and block out the people. The Fatah underground handle all the social problems of the people in the camp/ghetto.  It had been planned that I would interview the number one man, Zechariah, but he stayed busy all day with the business of the people.

One of his many assistant’s informed me, “My roof is higher than the roof of Oslo. Your government is controlled by the Zionist agenda. What Americans see on TV and read in the paper is controlled by the Zionist agenda and it is not the truth of what we live and what we are like and what we want. We are living an existence under occupation for 40 years now. All occupied people have been liberated, except the Palestinians. America liberated herself from Britain and we have every right to a free life. We are a resistance movement and Israel calls it terrorism, but we call it resisting occupation.

“The resistance has no strategy to fight Israel and destroy it, or end their existence. Our resistance message to the whole world is that we are people existing under occupation and we can only exist by resisting.

“The more powerful one is the one who must make peace and that is Israel, it is up to them. The weak cannot bring peace and we are not talking peace between nations but between governments. The Holy Land always had all three religions; this land is holy to all the sons of Abraham. Religions idea is suitable for one state, but the political situation doesn’t make it possible. There is no disagreement between the Christians and Muslims here, but we do disagree with the Christians in the U.S.A. who do not come here and see the truth!

“It is wrong news that Jenin is a terrible place to come and visit. What happened in Gaza with Alan Johnston [kidnapped journalist] is not the true Palestinian culture. We are hospitable and it is not our culture to kill.

“My message to the American government is that Arab people do not trust you. You asked for democratic elections and you don’t support the suffering people, you support only Israel. Palestine is a very holy place for Jews, Christians and Muslims and there is no future for the West Bank if it remains under occupation. What we want is freedom from occupation; we want our land, water and refugee rights.”



American Israeli, Founder and Coordinator of Israeli Committee against House Demolitions explains that, "Israel is a not a democracy but is an Ethnocracy, meaning a country run and controlled by a national group with some democratic elements but set up with Jews in control and structured to keep them in control.”

The staunchest supporters of the state of Israel are American Christians, many who do not even know they are Zionists.

Tikkun is Hebrew for mend, repair and transform the world. Tikkun is also an organization that researched to discover that there are three distinct elements energizing the Christian Zionists:

1. A strong commitment to conservative and ultra-nationalist American politics (so strong, I believe, that if the U.S. were to decide to break with Israel, this part of the Christian Zionist leadership would go along with that and drop its defense of Israeli policies).

2. Dispensationalist religious commitments that lead many of the Christian Zionists to yearn for a cataclysmic “end of history” eschatological war in the Middle East that will precipitate the second coming of Jesus and the Rapture in which all true Christians will go to heaven and all Jews who have not yet converted to Christianity will burn in hell for eternity.

3. A widespread understanding among many Christians that atonement and repentance is needed for 1700 years of murder, rape, and oppression of Jews that was frequently generated by the Church (though, of course, the Evangelicals do not recognize that church as their church). In this category are many Christian Zionists who genuinely feel terrible about what has happened to the Jews and genuinely want to help the Jewish people. Their philo-Semitism is real and sincere. [4]

Jews and Christians worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but many fail to comprehend that the first mention of Israel is in Genesis 32:22, when Jacob was renamed Israel for having wrestled and struggled with the Divine. Thus, to claim that the secular ethnocratic state of Israel has a divine right that supersedes the divine rights of the indigenous people of the land, reeks of racism and misses the point of what the Hebrew prophets were always on about:

"What does God require? He has told you o'man!
Be just, be merciful, and walk humbly with your Lord." -Micah 6:8

 "His thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord."- Isaiah 55:8

"My people are fools, they do not know me! They are skilled in doing evil, they know not how to do good."-Jeremiah 4:22

 

"From Moses to Jeremiah and Isaiah, the Prophets taught...that the Jewish claim on the land of Israel was totally contingent on the moral and spiritual life of the Jews who lived there, and that the land would, as the Torah tells us, 'vomit you out' if people did not live according to the highest moral vision of Torah. Over and over again, the Torah repeated its most frequently stated mitzvah [command]:

"When you enter your land, do not oppress the stranger; the other, the one who is an outsider of your society, the powerless one and then not only 'you shall love your neighbor as yourself' but also 'you shall love the other.'" [5]


A recent Zogby International poll found that 31% of those surveyed in the national poll strongly believe or somewhat believe in the ideas behind Christian Zionism, defined as "the belief that Jews must have all of the promised land, including all of Jerusalem, to facilitate the second coming of the messiah."
A CNN/Time poll showed that 59% of the American public believes the prophecies contained in the Book of Revelations will come true. Most all are Christian Zionists.

Christian Zionism is an extremist Christian fundamentalist movement which supports the claims of those who believe that the State of Israel should take control of all of the land currently disputed between Palestinians and Israelis. It views the creation and expansion of the modern state of Israel as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy toward the second coming of Jesus.

Christian Zionism is a two hundred year old theological and political movement that embraces the most extreme ideological positions of Zionism, thereby becoming detrimental to a just peace within Palestine and Israel. The Christian Zionist program provides a worldview where the Gospel is identified with the ideology of empire, colonialism and militarism. In its extreme form, it laces an emphasis on apocalyptic events leading to the end of history rather than living Christ's love and justice today.
Christian Zionism is also an escapist theology and a match made in hell for neo-con ideology.


These Christians believe that God fights on the side of Israel and they call for unqualified support for the most extreme right wing political positions related to the Holy Land. Christian Zionism has significant support within American Protestant fundamentalists, who number between 10 and 20 million. Its reach is broad, by virtue of its favorite themes related to the "End Times" and an Israel-fixated Christian media.

Christian Zionism is both a "movement" and a way of interpreting current events. Its focus is on Israel and the Middle East, as much an ideology as a "movement." Its promoters share many beliefs but are not organized through any one institution.

Throughout history Christians have at times twisted scripture to justify violence: for the Crusades, for Anti-Semitism, and for slavery. Too often the church has been neglected to respond to these biblical distortions and with disastrous results.

Although the Christian Zionists motives are couched in terms of compassion toward the Jewish people based on a literal reading of scripture their political agenda of territorial expansion Zionists has allowed then ongoing injustices against Palestinians.

The problem is not with Christianity, but that too few who claim to be actually have been.
Some mainline churches that do uphold what Jesus said include:

The Presbyterian Church USA, in July 2004 during the National General Assembly meeting stated: "Christian Zionism promotes a theology that justifies grievous violations of basic rights of people who are also made in the image of God, and is contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ."

"Jesus, picking up seminal themes from the Hebrew Scriptures, preached and lived a message of reconciliation."- Reformed Church in America Annual National Synod- June 2004

"We believe that the tenets of Christian Zionism neither reflect the intention of the teachings of Jesus and the prophets, nor promote peace in the Middle East, and respectfully recommend...an alternative voice to this theology." - United Church of Christ's General Synod- In July 2003

The United Methodist Church in June 2005 held a Conference on Unwrapping the Rapture and warned that "every household should give prayerful consideration as to how God will actually judge us for our silence about and complicity in the crushing of the Palestinian people."



In November 2006, Father Manuel, the parish priest at the Latin Church and school in Gaza wrote:

"Gaza cannot sleep! The people are suffering unbelievably. They are hungry, thirsty, have no electricity or clean water. They are suffering constant bombardments and sonic booms from low flying aircraft. They need food: bread and water. Children and babies are hungry...people have no money to buy food. The price of food has doubled and tripled due to the situation. We cannot drink water from the ground here as it is salty and not hygienic. People must buy water to drink. They have no income, no opportunities to get food and water from outside and no opportunities to secure money inside of Gaza. They have no hope...

"Without electricity children are afraid. No light at night. No oil or candles...

"Thirsty children are crying, afraid and desperate...Many children have been violently thrown from their beds at night from the sonic booms. Many arms and legs have been broken. These planes fly low over Gaza and then reach the speed of sound. This shakes the ground and creates shock waves like an earthquake that causes people to be thrown from their bed. I, myself weigh 120 kilos and was almost thrown from my bed due to the shock wave produced by a low flying jet that made a sonic boom...

"Gaza cannot sleep...the cries of hungry children, the sullen faces of broken men and women who are just sitting in their hungry emptiness with no light, no hope, and no love.

"These actions are War Crimes!"


Christians all say God is love but not all comprehend that, "Love is not the starving of whole populations. Love is not the bombardment of open cities. Love is not killing......Our manifesto is the Sermon on the Mount, which means that we will try to be peacemakers." -Dorothy Day


A partial response to the ideology of Zionism for the religious Christian should insist that it be based in the Hebrew prophets and in the light of Jesus' two greatest commandments: Love God and love your neighbor.

"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the daughters and sons of God." –Jesus in Matthew 5:9


READ what Fr. Manuel wrote January 2009:
http://www.amostrust.org/downloads/From_the_Church_of_God_in_Gaza.pdf



1.  Ben Ehrenreich's op-ed essay is here: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oeehrenreich15-2009mar15,0,6684861.story
  Judea Pearl's op-ed essay is here:
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-pearl15-2009mar15,0,6323783.story

2. http://www.ask.com/bar?q=How+much+does+the+USA+give+to+Israel+annually%3F&page=1&qsrc=0&ab=0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wrmea.com%2Fhtml%2Fus_aid_to_israel.htm

3. Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, print edition page 13, April 2009
4. Rabbi Lerner, Tikkun Magazine page 9, Nov/Dec. 2007
5. Rabbi Lerner, TIKKUN Magazine, page 35, Sept./Oct. 2007


 
 
   
 
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