Talking Zionism in the Financial Times and from the Mount of the Beatitudes
Tony Judt is a University Professor at New York University who recently wrote that “Israel must unpick its ethnic myth” published first in the Financial Times. Judt also provides the lead for this Christian Anarchist’s response regarding Zionism.
Judt wrote: What exactly is “Zionism”?
Its core claim was always that Jews represent a common and single people; that their millennia-long dispersion and suffering has done nothing to diminish their distinctive, collective attributes; and that the only way they can live freely as Jews – in the same way that, say, Swedes live freely as Swedes – is to dwell in a Jewish state.
I can certainly confirm, from personal experience, that anti-religious sentiment – often of an intensity that I found discomforting – was widespread in left-leaning Israeli circles of the 1960s. Religion, I was informed, was for the haredim and the “crazies” of Jerusalem’s Mea Sharim quarter. “We” are modern and rational and “western”, it was explained to me by my Zionist teachers. But what they did not say was that the Israel they wished me to join was therefore grounded, and could only be grounded, in an ethnically rigid view of Jews and Jewishness…
If the Jews of Europe and North America took their distance from Israel (as many have begun to do), the assertion that Israel was “their” state would take on an absurd air. Over time, even Washington might come to see the futility of attaching American foreign policy to the delusions of one small Middle Eastern state. This, I believe, is the best thing that could possibly happen to Israel itself. It would be obliged to acknowledge its limits. It would have to make other friends, preferably among its neighbours.
The civil war in Northern Ireland came to an end in part because an American president instructed the Irish emigrant community in the US to stop sending arms and cash to the Provisional IRA. If American Jews stopped associating their fate with Israel and used their charitable cheques for better purposes, something similar might happen in the Middle East. 
On March 20, 2006, I traveled three hours away from the Little Town of Bethlehem: Occupied Territory to the Mount of Beatitudes in Israel. The awe-inspiring site sits above the shimmering Sea of Galilee where Christ preached the Sermon on the Mount.
My Sabeel [Arabic for The Way] Reality Tour through the West Bank had concluded and I needed to be alone and silent, but I ended up delivering my own Sermon on the Mount.
At dinner a Catholic Pentecostal from Scotland introduced himself and asked me why I was there and what church I was from. I responded I have Irish Roman Catholic, Polish Jew, Russian Orthodox and Episcopal roots but that my rock is The Beatitudes.
He looked even more perplexed when I told him I came to the Mount of Beatitudes to decompress and reflect upon my nine days in Occupied Territory.
I asked him if he were aware of the work of Sabeel, the Palestinian founded organization that promotes a theology of liberation based on justice, peace, non-violence and reconciliation for all, regardless of faith path or nationality.
He sternly admonished me, “God gave this land to the Jews! The Bible never mentions Palestine, and that is that! God gave this land to the Jews and that is that!”
I responded just as fervently that the Palestinian Christians are the descendants of those who first followed Christ and they have been denied inalienable human rights by the Israeli government.
I told him the Christians in the Holy Land have shrunk from 20% of the total population to less than 1.3% since 1948 and if things don’t change soon, there will be no Christian witness in the land where Christ promised that it is the peacemakers who are the children of God.
He sputtered, “But the Jews have suffered! God gave this land to the Jews and that is that!”
That really got my Irish up and I retorted, “Yes they did suffer because good people did nothing for far too long, and now the once oppressed have become the oppressors. In the 21st century good people are unaware, ignoring or are in total denial of the injustices in the Holy Land. And what about all the Hebrew prophets, such as Micah who reminded the Jews of what the Lord requires: To be just, to be merciful and to walk humbly with your God!”
I could NOT shut up although I knew that that Scotsman was trying to get away and he looked most terrified by my passionate plea and as I was on a tear, I barely took a breath as I told him that instead of him staying in Israel for his entire visit, he should go and witness life in the occupied territories; go and see the effects of The Wall on his spirit and see what it has done to the Palestinian economy. I told him he should go and tour some of the six decades old refugee camps and see the ruins of all the uncompensated home demolitions.
I brought it on home by telling him that I also doubted that God was ever in the real estate business!
That Scotsman’s eyes had bugged out and his mouth had dropped open while the torrent of words spewed out of me and after I finally shut up, he stammered, “But there is suffering everywhere!”
I retorted, “Yes there is, and Christ always stood up for the poor and the oppressed. And he told us what ever we do or don’t do for the least and the outcast; we do it or don’t do it unto God.”
The Scot shook his head and turned and walked quickly away and never again looked my way again. Nobody else spoke to me the rest of the evening or the next day. That was fine with me, for I was listening to the voice within and what I kept hearing was Luke 23:34: “Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
But when you know and if you are of good will and a person of CONSCIENCE you must do something, and as the saying goes-we must preach to our own, so I address USA Christians regarding the fastest growing cult in the USA-and also perhaps in Scotland- the cult of Christian Zionism.
What is Christian Zionism?
Christian Zionism is an extremist Christian 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 modern 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.
What is the Christian Zionist connection with the Holy Land?
Believing that God fights on the side of Israel, Christian Zionists call for the unqualified support for the most extreme political positions related to the Holy Land. Christian Zionist spokes persons have attributed Hurricane Katrina to God’s wrath over our failure to stop Israel from pulling out of Gaza. They consistently oppose any moves towards a solution to the conflict, which would validate the political aspirations of both Palestinians and Israelis.
Who Supports Christian Zionism?
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 political 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 slow to respond to these biblical distortions with disastrous results.
Today Christian Zionists – particularly those with dispensationalist leanings – are at it again. Although their motives are couched in terms of compassion toward the Jewish people based on a literal reading of scripture the political agenda of territorial expansion advocated by Christian Zionists has given rise to injustice against Palestinians and added fuel to the fire of conflict in the Middle East. For some time, individuals, and theologians have spoken out against Christian Zionism. In the past few years, whole church bodies are adding their official voices to the distortions and injustices perpetuated by Christian Zionism.
The GOOD NEWS is that some mainstream churches have spoken out against this inherently anti-Semitic theology. What follows are but a few words from some of those who have:
The Presbyterian Church in the USA at its July 2004, National General Assembly issued a statement on Confronting Christian Zionism: “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.”
The United Church of Christ in July 2003, at its National General Synod offered An Alternative Voice to Christian Zionism: “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.”
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, in June 2005 at its Chicago Metropolitan Synod issued a Resolution to Encourage the Study of Christian Zionism: “the movement of Christian Zionism based on these biblical interpretations seeks to influence U.S. policy toward Israel in a manner that would arguably facilitate mistreatment of Palestinians, continued occupation of the land, opposition to a two-state solution, and exclusive Israeli control of Jerusalem.”
The United Methodist Church, in June 2005 at its Illinois Conference on Unwrapping the Rapture warned, “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.”
The Episcopal Church, in November 2004 at its Diocese of Chicago Confronted Christian Zionism: “A partial response to Christian Zionism would be to say that we read Scripture in light of [Jesus’] two great commandments – to love God and our neighbor.”
In the gospel [good news] told in Mark 3: 31-35, the mother of Jesus’ and his brothers arrived at the house where he was teaching.
Standing outside, they sent word to Jesus and called him out. The crowd around Jesus told him, “Your mother, sisters and brothers are outside asking for you.”
Jesus replied, “I am here with my mother, sisters and brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother, sister and mother.”-Mark 3: 31-35
“What does God require? He has told you o’man! Be just, be merciful, and walk humbly with your Lord.” -Micah 6:8
Being just means correct, true, accurate, right and fair.
Merciful is to have, feel and show compassion, that sense of viscerally feeling the pain of another and being moved to help.
Being humble is knowing yourself; the good and the bad, for both cut through every human heart.
Founder of WeAreWideAwake.org
A Feature Correspondent for Arabisto.com
Author of “Keep Hope Alive” and “Memoirs of a Nice Irish American ‘Girl’s’ Life in Occupied Territory”
Producer “30 Minutes with Vanunu” and “13 Minutes with Vanunu”