Christian Palestinianism

IS CHRISLAM A THREAT TO JEWS AND ISRAEL?

downloadFor several years a number of conservative Christian evangelicals have warned of a new (and heretical) doctrine dubbed Chrislam which, as the name suggests, is a hybrid of Christianity and Islam. At first glance, the idea seems preposterous and alarmist. But there is growing evidence that some kind of pernicious cooperation between some Christians and Muslims is really happening. And it’s not good news for the Jews.

Strictly speaking, Chrislam is a syncretistic religion of Nigerian origin that combines Islam and Christianity. Established in the 1970s, the followers of Chrislam recognise both the Bible and the Quran as holy texts. In its strictest sense, the religion is very local and only commands around 1,500 members. But in recent years, the merger of Christianity and Islam is happening on a wide scale in the West, particularly in the United States where several bridge-building exercises between the two religions have been implemented.

Christians and Muslims for Peace (CAMP) is an organisation that devotes itself to discovering common ground between the two religions through an exploration of the Quran and the Bible. Based in California, CAMP is led by Dr William Baker, the former chairman of the neo-Nazi Populist Party. In 2002, Baker was fired from Crystal Cathedral Ministries when his anti-Semitic inclinations and ties to the Far Right were exposed by the media. Obviously, CAMP is not committed to peaceful cooperation with the Jewish people.

In 2007, an open letter entitled “A Common Word Between Us and You” was published by a group of Muslim leaders. It opens with the lines, “Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world.” A large number of Christians responded positively to the statement. The most highly publicised response, called “Loving God and Neighbor Together,” was written by four academics from the University of Yale. The response included the lines: “Before we ‘shake your hand’ in responding to your letter, we ask forgiveness of the All-Merciful One and of the Muslim community around the world.”

In 2009, Rick Warren, the well-known evangelical author and pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, addressed 8,000 Muslims at a national convention in Washington D.C. The convention was organised by Islamic Society of North America, which champions terrorist organisations and disseminates extremist literature. Since then, Warren has been involved in an initiative called the King’s Way, a partnership with a number of California mosques, which involves the establishment of a set of principles outlining the shared principles of Islam and Christianity, including the declaration that both faiths worship the same God.

The year 2009 also saw the publication of the notorious Kairos Palestine Document, which was subtitled “A moment of truth: A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering.” The Kairos document, which can be found on the World Council of Churches website, speaks on behalf of Christian and Muslim Arabs, who apparently share a “deeply rooted” history and a “natural right” to the land. In contrast, Israel is deemed an alien entity that only exists because of Western guilt over the Holocaust. The document praises the first intifada, referring to it as a “peaceful struggle.” Terrorism, while not exactly sanctioned, is excused on the grounds that Israel is ultimately responsible for Palestinian acts of violence against Jewish civilians.

Meanwhile, a number of Christians including the anti-Semitic Anglican vicar Stephen Sizer, Presbyterian writer Gary Burge (who has criticised Judaism’s “territorial world view”) and Professor Donald Wagner, have participated in events sponsored by the Bridges of Faith (an evangelical Christian-Muslim dialogue group) and the Muslim World Islamic Call Society, which until recently was funded by the now-defunct Gaddafi regime in Libya. On the Bridges of Faith website, the dialogue group states that it “looks forward to a day when we can make our deliberations public through the publication of papers, open meetings and media outreach in order to spread the message of tolerance and commonality of values to a wider community of grass-roots groups, as well as a wider community of inter-religious dialogue.” It is highly unlikely that “the message of tolerance” will extend to the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

Of course, the background to Chrislam is the removal of the Bible from its Judaic matrix. By stripping the Bible of its Jewishness, Chrislamists neutralise the prophetic significance of the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. The theological underpinning of Chrislamism is a rebranded version of replacement theology in which the Jews have no prophetic relevance.

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When Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat made his first Christmas appearance in Bethlehem in 1995, he invoked the Christian nativity by crying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill towards men.” To which the crowd responded, “In spirit and blood we will redeem thee, O Palestine!”

Bethlehem obviously held a special place in Arafat’s heart. Not because he had any special love for Jesus and Christianity but because it was a political rallying point. Bethlehem, according to Arafat, was the “birthplace of the first Palestinian Christian, Jesus Christ.”

Arafat’s reference to the nativity is obviously a ploy to unite Muslims and Christian Arabs against Israel. In and of itself, this is unspectacular, but when placed in the wider context of Islamic replacement theology, the (mis)use of Jesus is sinister. Arafat not only proclaimed that Jesus was a Palestinian but is “our Lord the Messiah,” which is an astonishing statement for a Muslim to make. Referring to Jesus as Lord is to detract from the strict monotheism of the faith, a grave sin known as shirk.

The appropriation of the crucifixion by Muslim Palestinians in their war on Israel is puzzling. The image of the crucified Palestinian/Jesus is a common propaganda motif. And yet the Quran says that Jesus wasn’t put on the cross but was raised up to heaven. So not only are Muslims committing an act of apostasy by referring to Jesus as “our Lord” they are even refuting their own sacred scripture by claiming Jesus was a crucified Palestinian.

Other times, Jesus is referred to as a Shahid, a holy martyr of Islam. Arafat often referred to Jesus as the first Palestinian martyr, which is historically incorrect and is at odds with Islamic tradition. There are no references to Jesus as a Shahid in Islamic works, and it is impossible for Jesus to be a martyr if he did not die on the cross, which is the view of the Quran.

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As well as being a heretical version of both Christianity and Islam, Chrislam presents a danger to the Jewish people.

Of all the anti-Israel discourses that exist today, Chrislam is perhaps one of the most disturbing. Disturbing because it wants to de-Judaize both Jesus and the Bible, and because it wants to neutralise Jewish identity and history. Moreover, the remarkable post-Holocaust reconciliation of Jews and Christians is being undermined by the emerging cooperation between left-wing evangelicals and jihadi Muslims, both of whom hold unsavoury attitudes towards Jews and Israel.

Ironically, Chrislam is entirely self-defeating. If God no longer honours his covenant with the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, then the foundations of both Christianity and Islam collapse. A God who changes his mind about the people of the covenant, i.e. the Jews, is no longer the God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus or even Mohammed.

THE ETHNIC CLEANSING OF JESUS THE JEW

jesus1Christian readers will know that November 30 2014 was Advent Sunday, marking the start of the season of Advent. Advent (which means “coming”) is a season observed in many Western Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. In recent years, the birth and life of Jesus has been hijacked by the Palestinian movement, which seeks to portray Jesus as a Palestinian. This is often referred to as Christian Palestinianism.

In recent decades, the quest to rescue Jesus’ Jewish identity has yielded much fruit. Geza Vermes, Robert Eisenman, E.P Sanders, James Tabor, R. T. Herford, George Foot Moor and Hyam Maccoby are among those who have highlighted Jesus’ Jewish identity and origins. Combined with the shared interest in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jews and Christians have found common ground in the exploration of the Jewish roots of Christianity.

Jesus was born of a Jewish woman in the Judean town of Bethlehem, and was given the Jewish name of “Yeshua,” literally “Joshua.” He was circumcised, attended synagogue services and the Temple, wore tassels, was referred to as “Rabbi,” and observed the Sabbath, Passover and Sukkots. He quoted from the Hebrew bible and clearly saw himself as fulfilling the scriptures in some way. He held the Torah in high esteem and reiterated the importance of the Shema. He also made it clear that he had “come for the lost sheep of Israel” and that “Salvation is of the Jews.”

However, Christian Palestinianism has a done a great deal to undermine this. The Palestinian Jesus falsehood is a shocking return to the “Jesus was an Aryan” falsehood of the Far Right or the Church-sanctioned portrayal of Jesus as a fair-skinned, blue-eyed gentile. The identicide of the Jewish Jesus is also redolent of an ancient heresy known as Gnosticism, sometimes described as a metaphysical anti-Semitism.

Ye’or, in her book Eurabia: the Euro-Arab Axis, writes of the theological similarities between Palestinianism and Marcion gnosticism, which rejects the Hebrew Bible and believes the God of Israel to be a lower entity than the God of the New Testament. Likewise, Christian Palestinianism either ignores the Hebrew scriptures or wants to ‘de-Zionise’ the prophecies that do not suit the Palestinian agenda. As with Marcionism, God is no longer the God of Israel with a special interest in the fate of the Jewish people, but the God of Palestine.

The ethnic cleansing of Jesus is part of a wider effort to de-Judaize the Jewish people in order to undermine their claim to the land of Israel. So as well as being de-chosen by God, the people of Israel are not even Jewish, according to some Christian Palestinianists. In the mid-1990s, the Palestinian Authority aired a program that claimed Palestinians are the real descendants of the biblical Israelites. One of the so-called experts who was invited to appear on the show was Jarid el-Qadaweh, who declared: “In my blood there is more of the Children of Israel than in that of Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu.” Mitri Raheb, the pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, has used the figure of Jesus to question the ethnic validity of the State of Israel:

“I’m sure if we were to do a DNA test between David, who was a Bethlehemite, and Jesus, born in Bethlehem, and Mitri, born just across the street from where Jesus was born, I’m sure the DNA will show that there is a trace. While, if you put King David, Jesus and Netanyahu, you will get nothing, because Netanyahu comes from an East European tribe who converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages.”

Like el-Qadaweh, Raheb claims the average Palestinian is native to the land and is genetically similar to Jesus. In contrast, the average Israeli is an interloper from eastern Europe and is genetically dissimilar from Jesus. This raises the controversial question: is there such a thing as a Jewish gene? Extensive DNA testing does show there is such a thing. Genetic studies on the Y chromosome show that modern Jewish populations have a predominantly Middle Eastern ancestry, thereby discrediting the theory that Ashkenazi Jews are descendants of the Khazars (a semi-nomadic Turkic people from the Middle Ages). But the question of “who is a Jew?” is wide open to interpretation and has been debated for thousands of years, sometimes with devastating consequences.

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When Arafat made his first Christmas appearance in Bethlehem in 1995, he invoked the Christian nativity by crying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill towards men.” To which the crowd responded, “In spirit and blood we will redeem thee, O Palestine!”

Bethlehem obviously held a special place in Arafat’s heart. Not because he had any special love for Jesus and Christianity but because it was a political rallying point. Bethlehem, according to Arafat, was the “birthplace of the first Palestinian Christian, Jesus Christ.”

Arafat’s reference to the nativity is obviously a ploy to unite Muslims and Christian Arabs against Israel. In and of itself, this is unspectacular, but when placed in the wider context of Islamic replacement theology, the (mis)use of Jesus is sinister. (Arafat not only proclaimed that Jesus was a Palestinian but is “our Lord the Messiah,” which is an astonishing statement for a Muslim to make. Referring to Jesus as Lord is to detract from the strict monotheism of the faith, a grave sin known as shirk.)

The appropriation of the crucifixion by Muslim Palestinians in their war on Israel is puzzling. The image of the crucified Palestinian/Jesus is a common propaganda motif. And yet the Quran says that Jesus wasn’t put on the cross but was raised up to heaven. So, not only are Muslims committing an act of apostasy by referring to Jesus as “our Lord” they are even refuting their own sacred scripture by claiming Jesus was a crucified Palestinian. (This is not the only example of Muslims cherry-picking the Quran to suit their agenda. The Quran explicitly states the Land of Israel is a Jewish and not a Muslim inheritance.)

Other times, Jesus is referred to as a Shahid, a holy martyr of Islam. Arafat often referred to Jesus as the first Palestinian martyr, which is historically incorrect and is at odds with Islamic tradition. There are no references to Jesus as a Shahid in Islamic works, and it is impossible for Jesus to be a martyr if he did not die on the cross, which is the view of the Quran.

The final step in the Palestinianisation of Bethlehem is the fact that UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – has approved a Palestinian bid to categorise the Church of the Nativity (the birthplace of Jesus) as a World Heritage Site. UNESCO’s approval effectively endorses a specifically Palestinian culture and heritage that is distinct from the history of Israel.

Obviously, the invention of the Palestinian Jesus and the misuse of the crucifixion as a political weapon is just one more lethal narrative aimed at demonising Israel and is not an authentic reconciliation with Christianity. In fact, the Christian population in the West Bank has ebbed away under PA rule. And yet Christians in the West seem happy to play along with the pretence that nothing is amiss because they both share the same enemy – Israel.

EXPOSING CHRISTIAN PALESTINIANISM

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“We have been taught for centuries that the Jews are the Chosen People. We do not believe anymore that they are the Chosen People of God, since now we have a new understanding of that Choseness.” (Father Elias Chacour, Catholic Archbishop of Israel)

What is Christian Palestinianism?

Christian Palestinianism is a phrase coined by Paul Wilkinson, an evangelical author based in Manchester, England. Wilkinson defines Christian Palestinianism as “an inverted mirror image of Christian Zionism,” and describes it as “diametrically opposed to that of biblical Christian Zionism, and whose opposition to Israel and her Christian allies is expressed in their outspoken support of the Palestinian agenda.”

The term Palestinianism, however, seems to have originated in the writings of Jewish Egyptian author Bat Ye’or. In Eurabia: the Euro-Arab Axis, she outlines the growing phenomenon of Palestinian replacement theology and the gradual Islamisation of Christianity. Christian Palestinianists, according to Ye’or interpret the Bible from the viewpoint of the Quran and “do not admit to any historical or theological link between the biblical Israel, the Jewish people and the modern State of Israel.”

Christian Palestinianists and their supporters in the West recognize the political benefit of undermining the State of Israel’s biblical foundations. This is achieved by stripping the Bible of its Jewishness, neutralizing the prophetic significance of the Land of Israel and recasting Jesus as a Palestinian. This is despite the fact that Jesus was a Galilean Jew and the “Palestine” didn’t exist as a political or national entity during his lifetime.

Wilkinson places the birth of Christian Palestinianism at the end of the 1980s. However, the groundwork had already been laid in 1967 by an Arab-Christian memorandum entitled “What is Required of the Christian Faith Concerning the Palestine Problem.” The document, which had the blessing of Catholic and Orthodox clergy, declared that it is “a total misunderstanding of the story of salvation and a perversion of God’s plan for a Christian to want to re-establish a Jewish nation as a political entity.”

In one of its most audacious passages, the memorandum reads: “The Christian conscience should always discern what is the authentic vocation of the Jewish people and what is the other side of the coin, that is, the racist State of Israel.” In fact, the memorandum calls for a permanent exile of the Jews on the grounds that “the Jewish race was chosen to serve the salvation of Humanity and not to establish itself in any particular religious or racial way.”

The theological underpinning of Christian Palestinianism is a rebranded version of replacement theology. Fulfilment theology is based on the premise that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus was a spiritual fulfilment of God’s promise to return the Jews to Israel. Therefore the Jews – and by extension the Land of Israel – have no prophetic meaning and have fulfilled their roles in salvation history. The theologian N.T. Wright, for example, argues that Israel’s restoration was achieved through the resurrection and that Jewish ethnic identity is no longer important on a religious level. The Land of Israel, Jerusalem and Temple are all obsolete, according to Wright, because Jesus embodies all three.

Although keen to neutralise the prophetic significance of the Bible for Jews, Christian Palestinianists have no problem with appropriating the tradition for themselves. In 2005, the Anglican bishop of Jerusalem, Riah Abu el-Assal, claimed of Palestinian Christians: “We are the true Israel […] no-one can deny me the right to inherit the promises, and after all the promises were first given to Abraham and Abraham is never spoken of in the Bible as a Jew.”

In 1997, the Palestinian Authority aired a program that claimed the stories in the Torah took place in Yemen, not in Israel. The PA also says there is no evidence that the Western Wall has anything to do with Second Temple.

Christian Palestinianists question or even condemn passages in the Bible that elevate Israel above other nations. In fact, the prime mover of the Christian Palestinianist movement, Naim Ateek, who is the Anglican canon of St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem , has stated that some Bible passages are explicitly “exclusivist.” There is a “great need to ‘de-Zionize’ these texts,” he believes.

In 1989, Ateek published the founding document of Christian Palestinianism, Justice and Only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation, which drew much of its strength from South American liberation theology. Five years later, Ateek founded an organization called Sabeel – the Palestinian Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center. Sabeel means “the way,” which is a clear reference to both Jesus as “the way,” and the early name of the Christians, who were called “followers of the way.”

The version of liberation theology espoused by Ateek is that of Jesus as “a Palestinian living under an occupation.” In his 2001 Easter message, Ateek spoke of Jesus as “the powerless Palestinian humiliated at a checkpoint.” Apart from the fact that Jesus wasn’t a Palestinian, this is harmless enough. But Ateek then steps up the rhetoric, with disturbing anti-Semitic undertones:

“In this season of Lent, it seems to many of us that Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him. It only takes people of insight to see the hundreds of thousands of crosses throughout the land, Palestinian men, women, and children being crucified. Palestine has become one huge Golgotha. The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily. Palestine has become the place of the skull.”

This is shocking and inflammatory on a number of levels. The Palestinians are indeed restricted in their movements because of the terror threat, but being held up at a checkpoint is hardly a crucifixion. The reference to “hundreds of thousands of crosses throughout the land” is obviously figurative but the image is overblown and patently absurd. If any place on earth should be dubbed Golgotha, surely it should be Auschwitz or Treblinka, not the West Bank. The reference to the “Israeli government crucifixion system” is outrageous and quite anti-Semitic, given the old canard about Jews being responsible for the death of Jesus.

The Kairos Palestine Document

Perhaps the Christian Palestinianist movement found its ultimate expression in the Kairos Palestine Document. Published in 2009 and subtitled “A moment of truth: A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering,” the paper was a rehash of the 1967 Arab-Christian memorandum.

Notably, the Kairos document (which can be found on the World Council of Churches website) speaks on behalf of Christian and Muslim Palestinians, who apparently share a “deeply rooted” history and a “natural right” to the land. In contrast, Israel is an alien entity, and only exists because of Western guilt over the Holocaust. Not surprisingly, the document makes no mention of Muslim involvement in the Holocaust, nor does it comment on the decades of Jewish immigration in the decades before Hitler’s genocide.

The Holocaust aside, the State of Israel is associated with the words “evil” and “sin.” According to the text, the “occupation” is an affront to both humanity and the divine, and “distorts the image of God in the Israeli who has become an occupier.”

The document criticizes Christian Zionism as being “far from Christian teachings” and praises the first intifada, referring to it as a “peaceful struggle.” Terrorism, while not sanctioned, is excused on the grounds that Israel is ultimately responsible for Palestinian acts of violence against Jewish civilians.

And if any proof is needed that conformity is in fashion, the document calls for economic sanctions against Israel: “Palestinian civil organizations, as well as international organizations, NGOs and certain religious institutions call on individuals, companies and states to engage in divestment and in an economic and commercial boycott of everything produced by the occupation.”

This, according to the writers of the text, is an example of non-violent protest, despite the fact that there is nothing praiseworthy about ruining Jewish businesses and putting Palestinians out of work.

Christian Palestinianism in the West

Since the turn of the century, Christian Palestinianism has been warmly embraced by various Christian groups in the West, notably Anglicans, Presbyterians, evangelicals and left-wing protestants, such as the Quakers. Apart from attacking Israel, westernized Christian Palestinianists have gone to great lengths to ridicule and invalidate Christian Zionism.

In 2004, the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America declared Christian Zionism to be an “extreme form of dispensationalism,” a “distortion of the biblical message,” and an impediment to a “just peace in Israel/Palestine.” In 2007, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland accused Christian Zionism of portraying “an unjust God, with an unjust people.”

Many of the books attacking Christian Zionists accuse the latter of advocating “Armageddon” rather than justice. As well as removing the prophetic significance of the scriptures, books such as Anglican vicar Reverend Dr Stephen Sizer’s Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon?misrepresent and deride centuries of mainstream protestant tradition.

Sizer, a virulent opponent of Israel, believes there is a sharp distinction between God’s covenant with Israel and the beliefs of Jesus’s disciples. “There is,” he says, “no evidence that the apostles believed that the Jewish people still had a divine right to the land, or that Jewish possession of the land would be important, let alone that Jerusalem would remain a central aspect of God’s purposes for the world.” Sizer adds: Jerusalem and the Land of Israel “have been made irrelevant to God’s redemptive purposes.”

Sizer is a regular contributor to Islamic media outlets, including Iran’s Press TV. He has been photographed with Arafat, and with Zahra Mostafavi Khomeini, the daughter of the Ayatollah. He has met with – and publicly defended – Raed Salah, a Hamas fundraiser who accuses the Jews of making Passover bread with the blood of Christian children. (There are numerous photos of Sizer and Salah enjoying each other’s company.)

Sizer seems unembarrassed by the fact that his own remarks and writings stray into anti-Semitic territory. For instance, he once stated that the reason Jews “were expelled from the land was that they were more interested in money and power and treated the poor and aliens with contempt.” In 2011, he posted a link on his Facebook page to an anti-Semitic website called “The Ugly Truth,” and in the same year, he went to Malaysia to work with Viva Palestina, whose leading activists include Holocaust-denier Matthias Chang.

Another Anglican notable, Desmond Tutu, has likened Zionism to racism and repeatedly referred to Israel as an “apartheid” state. He is also a supporter of boycotts. Tutu, a friend of Yasser Arafat and Hamas’s Ismail Haniyeh, accepted the role as patron of Sabeel International in 2003. This is the same Sabeel that is spearheading the Christian Palestinianist movement in the Middle East. It is perhaps no surprise that US attorney Alan Dershowitz has called Tutu a “racist and a bigot.”

The number of Christian organizations censuring the Jewish state is increasing. It is common for left-wing Christians to exonerate the Palestinians of any historical and contemporary accountability, thereby holding Israel solely responsible for ending the crisis. In 2009, the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches released a statement condemning the so-called Israeli occupation and encouraging a boycott of goods made in settlements. Significantly, the World Council of Churches is also calling for the internationalization of Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, Christian Aid and the Quakers are calling on the UK government to implement a total ban of settlement goods. In North America, the United Church of Canada is heading towards an official boycott policy. And the Church of England, which has a large overseas membership, is considering whether it should adopt the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniers Programme in Palestine and Israel. The EAPPI is blatantly pro-Palestinian and holds the Jewish state solely responsible for resolving the situation in the West Bank.

A religion of resentment 

Christian Palestinianism is a religion of resentment. It is a projection of a sense of inferiority onto an external scapegoat. Thwarted by failure, Christian Palestinianists blame their problems on “the Jews.” The God of Israel is declared dead, only to be replaced by the anti-Semitic God of Palestine.

Of all the anti-Israel discourses that exist today, Christian Palestinianism is perhaps one of the most shocking. Shocking because it wants to de-Judaize the Bible and undermine Jewish identity. Shocking because it also revives the notion of Jews as killers of Christ. Moreover, the post-Holocaust reconciliation of Jews and Christians is lethally undermined. The work of Geza Vermes, and others like him, who have examined in close detail the Jewishness of Jesus, is being cast aside in favour of a quasi-gnostic Jesus.

On a theological level, Christian Palestinianism is entirely self-defeating. If God no longer honours his covenant with the Jews and the Land of Israel, then the whole foundation of Christianity collapses. A God who changes his mind about the Jews is no longer the God of Abraham, Moses or Jesus. Palestinianism is not only un-Biblical, it is un-Christian.

Pro-Palestinian Christians in the West need to take a long, hard look at themselves and ask whether it is ethical to be consorting with liars, terrorists and anti-Semites. They should also ask themselves if their actions are likely to lead to a fresh outburst of religiously-motivated anti-Semitism. The trouble is, history shows that many Christians need no excuse to persecute the Jews. There seems to be an in-built tendency to raise their fists against the descendants of Isaac and Jacob. This is bad news not only for the State of Israel and the Jewish diaspora, but also for Christianity itself, which will not survive another destructive wave of anti-Semitism.

As it says in Ezekiel 35, “Because you harbored an ancient hostility and delivered the Israelites over to the sword at the time of their calamity, the time their punishment reached its climax, therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I will give you over to bloodshed and it will pursue you. Since you did not hate bloodshed, bloodshed will pursue you.”

 

Greenbelt festival: A Christian (and Jewish) betrayal of the Israeli people

What could possibly be harmful about a group of socially-engaged Christians gathering for a summer festival in Cheltenham, England? On the surface, it seems innocent enough. So what if I told you that this glorified summer camp – known as Greenbelt – is simply an excuse for self-righteous Christians to demonize and delegitimize the State of Israel under the umbrella of human rights? Would you be shocked? No, probably not – but you might be more surprised to learn that one of the main attractions at the festival is a prominent Israel-hating American Jew.

The Greenbelt festival – “where faith, arts and justice meet” – is an annual gathering of Christians, many of whom are young people enticed by the prospect of worshipping Jesus, having fun in the sun and engaging in social activism. Greenbelt has been doing this for four decades. But critics of the organization point out that the festival is now a staunch critic of Israel and a purveyor of pro-Palestinian propaganda.

Christians who attend the festival in the third week of August will be bombarded with anti-Israel messages. On offer will be the opportunity to sign up to a trip to “Palestine” in order to “rebuild a demolished home” in Bethlehem. (Sorry, there are no offers of help to rebuild demolished homes in Sderot.) Apparently, rebuilding a Palestinian house is a “practical way to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people” and “experience first-hand life under occupation.” Solidarity with the Israeli people is obviously out of the question.

Such trips to the fictional country of Palestine are (according to the colorful Greenbelt website) acts of “creative resistance.” This is the kind of left-wing nonsense that really excites self-righteous liberal Christians who can’t think of anything better to do than to rally to the side of Jew-hating terrorists. What is “creative resistance” anyway? It sounds like they intend to paint a scary picture on Israel’s security barrier.

You won’t be surprised to learn that Greenbelt is a boycotter of Israeli goods from the so-called occupied territories (which according to the Bible is the land promised to the Jews, but never mind). Christians are called “to make a stand” by boycotting produce from the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. To drive the point home, Greenbelt director Paul Northup compares Israel to South Africa:  “In the 1980s, Greenbelt joined people all over the world in championing the boycott of goods from South Africa as a form of protest against the unjust apartheid regime there.”

Of course, there is not a single word about the murder and maiming of Jews by Palestinians. Nothing about how Arabs regularly vandalize Jewish property and damage holy sites in Jerusalem and Hebron. Also omitted is any mention of Palestinian-sponsored anti-Semitism in PA-authorized textbooks or the fact that the Arabs have repeatedly rejected a negotiated peace with Israel. As usual, it’s all Israel’s fault. And it’s such a boring cliché.

All of which is bad enough. But what really irritates me is the fact that the main attraction at this year’s Greenbelt festival is a Jewish American called Mark Braverman who was “transformed by witnessing the occupation of Palestine” (his words) on a trip to Israel in 2006. He now condemns Zionism as racism.

Braverman may be “reared in the Jewish tradition” (his words again) but he is no friend of the Jews. Braverman has thrown his weight behind a number of morally dubious Christian organizations, most notably the Friends of Sabeel North America and the Presbyterian Church, both of which promote a nasty ideology called Christian Palestinianism, which involves recasting Jesus the Galilean Jew as a Palestinian martyr and stripping the Bible of any Zionist overtones, thus neutralizing the prophetic significance of the Land of Israel.

Braverman hates Israel so much that he regularly endorses the anti-Semitic Kairos Palestine organization, which claims to speak on behalf of Christian and Muslim Arabs who share a “deeply rooted” history and a “natural right” to the land of “Palestine.” Some years ago Kairos Palestine produced a major document which branded Israel as evil and sinful. The text (which can be found on the World Council of Churches website) audaciously claims that the presence of a Jewish community in Judea and Samaria “distorts the image of God.” It is a depressing fact that Braverman was present at the unveiling of the Kairos Palestine document in Bethlehem in 2009. He also gave a speech celebrating its launch.

Despite his authorial ambitions (he has written books castigating Israel), Braverman is too stupid to realize that he is a pawn in somebody else’s game. In love with his own image as a human rights activist, he fails to see that he is a marketing tool in the hands of anti-Semites. Anti-Israel organizations like Greenbelt and Kairos Palestine are able to deflect accusations of anti-Semitism by obtaining the approval of a small handful of Jews, who are mainly from the Far Left.

So as far as Greenbelt is concerned, the presence of just one Jew is enough to legitimize its program of Israel demonization and delegitimization. This is the depths to which political discourse has sunk.

Luckily, a number of Christians are not convinced by Greenbelt’s Israelophobic agenda. Indeed, some are furious that Greenbelt has been hijacked by an anti-Israel contingent. Pastor Mike Fryer, the founder of a group called Christians for Zion, has expressed deep concern about the political trajectory of Greenbelt. And he is very worried that Christian children who attend the festival will be negatively influenced by Braverman and other anti-Israel speakers.

In an interview with The Jewish Telegraph, Pastor Fryer said that “one of the biggest problems with the [Greenbelt] camp is that there are a lot of kids in attendance.” He added: “We cannot allow them to grow up thinking Israel is evil.” It is a sobering thought that a new generation of Christians could grow up hating the Jewish state. It would also be an unfortunate throwback to a bygone age when Christian children were taught that Jews were Christ-killers. According to Greenbelt and co, Jews are now Palestinian killers.

Pastor Fryer (who visits Israel two or three times a year) aims to set the record straight. He is outraged by the lies perpetrated by Israel’s enemies. And he is particularly concerned that the people of Sderot and other victims of Palestinian terrorism are being ignored by the international Christian community. “The people living there are traumatized as a result of the constant rocket fire,” he told the newspaper.

The pastor plans to use his knowledge of Israel to oppose Braverman’s harmful message. He is arranging for a group of around 50 pro-Israel Christians to attend the Greenbelt festival in order to spread a pro-Israel message and to “pray for Israel.” I wish him luck.

Pastor Fryer’s persistent and generous support for Israel and the Jewish people is to be applauded. He stands in direct contrast to the cowardly Mark Braverman who has betrayed the Jews in order to sell a few badly-written books about the plight of the Palestinians and to ingratiate himself with anti-Semitic gentiles who care nothing for the security or human rights of the Israeli people.

 

 

Archbishop Welby: a friend of Israel?

Justin Welby has been Archbishop of Canterbury for less than six months and he has already made the important gesture of visiting the Middle East. Hopefully, it is the start of a much-needed reappraisal of the Anglican Church’s attitude towards the Jewish state.

Starting Sunday, Archbishop Welby will spend five days touring Israel, Jordan and Egypt, including trips to the Western Wall, the Church of the Resurrection, the Temple Mount and Yad Vashem. He is also meeting with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, patriarchs and church leaders.

His first official trip to Israel coincides with the discovery that he has Jewish ancestry, a fact that was hidden from him until recently. His father’s family were German Jewish immigrants who moved to England to escape anti-Semitism in the late 19th century. The new archbishop says he is “really pleased” to discover that he has a Jewish family, including a cousin who is a rabbi in London.

Archbishop Welby’s visit is highly symbolic. It is a sign that he is willing to embrace Christianity’s (and his own) Jewish roots, which is particularly important at a time when many in the Church – especially on the Left – are distancing themselves from the biblical concept of the Jews as the people destined to reside in the land of Israel.

So is the new Archbishop an ally of Israel? Canon Andrew White, the Vicar of Baghdad, thinks so. Israel and the Jewish people, he says, have nothing to fear. Meanwhile, Ed Kessler, executive director of the Woolf Institute, says Welby is “genuinely sensitive to Jews and Judaism” and “open to Israel as a Jewish state.” And according to a report in The Jewish News, Archbishop Welby is opposed to boycotts of Israel.

This is welcome news. But Archbishop Welby still has an uphill task when it comes to moderating the intemperate (and sometimes blatantly anti-Semitic) language and behavior of some of his clergy in the Church of England, many of whom have embraced an unpleasant ideology called Christian Palestinianism, which denies any historical or theological connection between the biblical Israel, the Jewish people and the modern State of Israel.

Indeed, it is a sad fact that the Kulturkampf (“culture war”) being waged against the Jewish state is spearheaded by several notable Anglicans. Retired Anglican bishop Desmond Tutu, for example, actively supports the boycott and divestment movement and has repeatedly called Israel an “apartheid” state. On a Christmas visit to Jerusalem in 1989, Tutu said “a description of what is happening in Gaza and the West Bank could describe events in South Africa.” He echoed these comments in 2002, when he spoke of “the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about.” Enraged by Tutu’s anti-Israel posturing, US attorney Alan Dershowitz has described the retired bishop as a “racist and a bigot.”

Another Anglican bigot is Naim Ateek, former canon of St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem and author of a tract called Justice, and only Justice, a Palestinian Theology of Liberation. Ateek believes there is “a great need to de-Zionize” sections of the Bible, which he considers “exclusivist.” Ateek is also fond of portraying Jesus as “a Palestinian living under an occupation.” In his 2001 Easter sermon he unashamedly spoke of “crucified Palestinians,” the “Israeli crucifixion system” and Palestine as “one huge Golgotha”. Obviously, he was drawing on the old canard of Jews as Christ-killers.

In 1989, Ateek founded the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center (which has spawned sister organizations in countries including the UK and the US). Sabeel promotes the idea that Zionism is based on a false interpretation of the Bible and that it stands for injustice. Critics of Sabeel claim that the organization regularly engages in anti-Israel propaganda and seeks to delegitimize the right of the Jewish state to exist. The Anti-Defamation League accuses the organization of “generating hostility towards Israel” citing “its use of theologically charged accusations.”

In the UK, the most notorious (and vile) Anglican anti-Zionist is Dr Stephen Sizer, incumbent of an Anglican parish in Surrey. According to Sizer, there is “no evidence that the apostles [of Jesus] believed that the Jewish people still had a divine right to the land, or that Jewish possession of the land would be important, let alone that Jerusalem would remain a central aspect of God’s purposes for the world.” In short, Jerusalem and the Land of Israel “have been made irrelevant to God’s redemptive purposes.”

Sizer is a regular contributor to Islamic media outlets, including Iran’s atrocious Press TV. He has been photographed with Arafat and with Zahra Mostafavi Khomeini, the daughter of the Ayatollah. He has met with – and publicly defended – Raed Salah, a Hamas fundraiser who accuses the Jews of making Passover bread with the blood of Christian children. (There are numerous photos of Sizer and Salah enjoying each other’s company.)

Some members of the Jewish community regard Sizer as a proponent of Christian anti-Semitism. British journalist Melanie Phillips has condemned him in her writings, while British Jewish historian Geoffrey Alderman has criticized Sizer for hiding his prejudice behind an “academic guise.” Sizer’s views have also angered many in the Christian community. The Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch, who is Bishop of Manchester and Chairman of the Council of Christians and Jews, has referred to Sizer’s behavior as “disgraceful and unbecoming for a clergyman.” And Simon McIlwaine, the founder of Anglican Friends of Israel, has called for Sizer to be defrocked.

Despite some dissenting voices, there has been a systematic campaign inside the Church to demonize and isolate Israel. Several years ago, the synod or governing body of the Church of England voted to disinvest church funds from some companies which supply goods and services to Israel. The main target of the plan was Caterpillar Inc, which sells earth-moving vehicles to the Israel Defense Forces. (The IDF uses many Caterpillar machines such as bulldozers and excavators mainly for engineering, earthworks and building projects.)

More insidious is the Church’s relationship with the Ecumenical Accompaniers Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). EAPPI’s main function is to “bring international Christian volunteers to the West Bank to experience life under occupation.” EAPPI has focused exclusively on the existence of Israel as the fundamental cause of conflict in the Middle East. It ignores Palestinian terror attacks against Israeli civilians and supports the right-to-return policy, which would effectively end Israel as a Jewish country.

But such concerns did not prevent the Church of England throwing its weight behind the EAPPI in an important debate last July. The Church’s governing body voted by a significant majority to support the nefarious aims of EAPPI. A closer look at the voting figures shows that clergy voted 4 to 1 in favor, while the laity voted 3 to 1. Even the then-Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who abstained from the vote, expressed his “respect and gratitude for the immense courage and dedication of the volunteers.”

He added: “There are some people, in their uncritical assumption that the government of Israel can do no wrong, who are clearly going to be very irritated by information being disseminated of the kind that EAPPI does.”

Did he not realize that the “information” disseminated by the EAPPI is little more than Palestinian propaganda?

But what is particularly interesting is the fact that Welby, before he became archbishop, also abstained from the vote – but now wishes he had voted against it. In a recent interview with The Jewish News, Archbishop Welby said: “On reflection, I’d have voted against. I wasn’t quite up to speed when I went into that vote. I think the situation in the Holy Land is so complicated that we always have to show we recognize this and I don’t think the motion adequately reflected the complexity.” He also told the publication that he should have used the debate to emphasize Israel’s right to “live in security and peace.”

It is slightly alarming Welby “wasn’t quite up to speed” on such an important issue, but at least he has been brave enough to renounce his earlier position. Indeed, his new position has upset some of his colleagues. Dr John Dinnen, the Anglican synod member who proposed the motion, said he was “sad” that Archbishop Welby “now feels he should have voted against my private member’s measure.”

Welby’s predecessor, Rowan Williams, did little to halt political Jew-bashing in the Anglican Church. Can the new archbishop do any better? Can Archbishop Welby succeed in portraying the State of Israel in a better light? It is true that he is not in a position to instruct the synod on how to vote in future debates. But his positive attitude towards Israel and the Jewish people may have a sobering effect on the Palestinianists within the Anglican community.

Furthermore, Archbishop Welby’s trip to the Middle East is a good opportunity to speak out on behalf of those Christians who are persecuted by their Muslim neighbors. So far, the Church of England and EAPPI have done little to express solidarity with Christians who are being harassed and driven out by Muslim fanatics in the so-called Palestinian territories, as well as in Iraq and Egypt.

Take the Christian village of Taybeh in Judea and Samaria, for example. The residents of Taybeh live in constant fear of Muslim gangs from the surrounding villages. In September 2005, hundreds of Muslims attacked the village, torching property and desecrating a statue of the Virgin Mary. In May 2012, a massacre was narrowly prevented after Palestinian Authority policemen drove out a gang of Muslim men who were intent on causing trouble.

Of course, the plight of Christians in Muslim areas is rarely reported because it is not newsworthy and it does not fit the prevailing anti-Israel narrative. But Archbishop Welby has a massive worldwide audience who might sit up and take notice if he publicly highlighted the recurring problem of Muslim violence against Christians in the Holy Land.

Archbishop Welby has only been in office for a very short time. But during this period he has criticized the UK government’s austerity measures and he has visited the new pope in an effort to bridge the gap between Anglicans and Catholics. Now would be a good time to repair the damage done to Anglican-Jewish relations and condemn Islamic violence. And if he can make the case for Israel and turn the tide of anti-Zionist opinion within his own ranks, so much the better.

Identicide: Christian Palestinianism and the strange death of Jesus the Jew

“We have been taught for centuries that the Jews are the Chosen People. We do not believe anymore that they are the Chosen People of God, since now we have a new understanding of that Choseness.” (Father Elias Chacour, Catholic Archbishop of Israel, 1999).

What is Christian Palestinianism?

Christian Palestinianism is a phrase coined by Paul Wilkinson, an evangelical author based in Manchester, England. Wilkinson defines Christian Palestinianism as “an inverted mirror image of Christian Zionism,” and describes it as “diametrically opposed to that of biblical Christian Zionism, and whose opposition to Israel and her Christian allies is expressed in their outspoken support of the Palestinian agenda.”

The term Palestinianism, however, seems to have originated in the writings of Jewish Egyptian author Bat Ye’or. In Eurabia: the Euro-Arab Axis, she outlines the growing phenomenon of Palestinian replacement theology and the gradual Islamization of Christianity. Christian Palestinianists, according to Ye’or interpret the Bible from the viewpoint of the Quran and “do not admit to any historical or theological link between the biblical Israel, the Jewish people and the modern State of Israel.”

Christian Palestinianists and their supporters in the West recognize the political benefit of undermining the State of Israel’s biblical foundations. This is achieved by stripping the Bible of its Jewishness, neutralizing the prophetic significance of the Land of Israel and recasting Jesus as a Palestinian. This is despite the fact that Jesus was a Galilean Jew and the word “Palestine” didn’t exist during his lifetime.

Wilkinson places the birth of Christian Palestinianism at the end of the 1980s. However, the groundwork had already been laid in 1967 by an Arab-Christian memorandum entitled “What is Required of the Christian Faith Concerning the Palestine Problem.” The document, which had the blessing of Catholic and Orthodox clergy, declared that it is “a total misunderstanding of the story of salvation and a perversion of God’s plan for a Christian to want to re-establish a Jewish nation as a political entity.”

In one of its most audacious passages, the memorandum reads: “The Christian conscience should always discern what is the authentic vocation of the Jewish people and what is the other side of the coin, that is, the racist State of Israel.” In fact, the memorandum calls for a permanent exile of the Jews on the grounds that “the Jewish race was chosen to serve the salvation of Humanity and not to establish itself in any particular religious or racial way.”

The theological underpinning of Christian Palestinianism is a rebranded version of replacement theology. Fulfillment theology is based on the premise that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus was a spiritual fulfillment of God’s promise to return the Jews to Israel. Therefore the Jews – and by extension the Land of Israel – have no prophetic meaning and have fulfilled their roles in salvation history. The theologian N.T. Wright, for example, argues that Israel’s restoration was achieved through the resurrection and that Jewish ethnic identity is no longer important on a religious level. The Land of Israel, Jerusalem and Temple are all obsolete, according to Wright, because Jesus embodies all three.

Although keen to neutralize the prophetic significance of the Bible for Jews, Christian Palestinianists have no problem with appropriating the tradition for themselves. In 2005, the Anglican bishop of Jerusalem, Riah Abu el-Assal, claimed of Palestinian Christians: “We are the true Israel […] no-one can deny me the right to inherit the promises, and after all the promises were first given to Abraham and Abraham is never spoken of in the Bible as a Jew.”

In 1997, the Palestinian Authority aired a program that claimed the stories in the Torah took place in Yemen, not in Israel. The PA also says there is no evidence that the Western Wall has anything to do with Second Temple.

Christian Palestinianists question or even condemn passages in the Bible that elevate Israel above other nations. In fact, the prime mover of the Christian Palestinianist movement, Naim Ateek, who is the Anglican canon of St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem , has stated that some Bible passages are explicitly “exclusivist.” There is a “great need to ‘de-Zionize’ these texts,” he believes.

In 1989, Ateek published the founding document of Christian Palestinianism, Justice and Only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation, which drew much of its strength from South American liberation theology. Five years later, Ateek founded an organization called Sabeel – the Palestinian Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center. Sabeel means “the way,” which is a clear reference to both Jesus as “the way,” and the early name of the Christians, who were called “followers of the way.”

The version of liberation theology espoused by Ateek is that of Jesus as “a Palestinian living under an occupation.” In his 2001 Easter message, Ateek spoke of Jesus as “the powerless Palestinian humiliated at a checkpoint.” Apart from the fact that Jesus wasn’t a Palestinian, this is harmless enough. But Ateek then steps up the rhetoric, with disturbing anti-Semitic undertones:

“In this season of Lent, it seems to many of us that Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him. It only takes people of insight to see the hundreds of thousands of crosses throughout the land, Palestinian men, women, and children being crucified. Palestine has become one huge Golgotha. The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily. Palestine has become the place of the skull.”

This is shocking and inflammatory on a number of levels. The Palestinians are indeed restricted in their movements because of the terror threat, but being held up at a checkpoint is hardly a crucifixion. The reference to “hundreds of thousands of crosses throughout the land” is obviously figurative but the image is overblown and patently absurd. If any place on earth should be dubbed Golgotha, surely it should be Auschwitz or Treblinka, not the West Bank. The reference to the “Israeli government crucifixion system” is outrageous and quite possibly anti-Semitic, given the old canard about Jews being responsible for the death of Jesus.

The Kairos Palestine Document

Perhaps the Christian Palestinianist movement found its ultimate expression in the Kairos Palestine Document. Published in 2009 and subtitled “A moment of truth: A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering,” the paper was a rehash of the 1967 Arab-Christian memorandum.

Notably, the Kairos document (which can be found on the World Council of Churches website) speaks on behalf of Christian and Muslim Palestinians, who apparently share a “deeply rooted” history and a “natural right” to the land. In contrast, Israel is an alien entity, and only exists because of Western guilt over the Holocaust. Not surprisingly, the document makes no mention of Muslim involvement in the Holocaust, nor does it comment on the decades of Jewish immigration in the decades before Hitler’s genocide.

The Holocaust aside, the State of Israel is associated with the words “evil” and “sin.” According to the text, the “occupation” is an affront to both humanity and the divine, and “distorts the image of God in the Israeli who has become an occupier.”

The document criticizes Christian Zionism as being “far from Christian teachings” and praises the first intifada, referring to it as a “peaceful struggle.” Terrorism, while not sanctioned, is excused on the grounds that Israel is ultimately responsible for Palestinian acts of violence against Jewish civilians.

And if any proof is needed that conformity is in fashion, the document calls for economic sanctions against Israel: “Palestinian civil organizations, as well as international organizations, NGOs and certain religious institutions call on individuals, companies and states to engage in divestment and in an economic and commercial boycott of everything produced by the occupation.”

This, according to the writers of the text, is an example of non-violent protest, despite the fact that there is nothing praiseworthy about ruining Jewish businesses and putting Palestinians out of work.

Christian Palestinianism in the West

Since the turn of the century, Christian Palestinianism has been warmly embraced by various Christian groups in the West, notably Anglicans, Presbyterians, evangelicals and left-wing protestants, such as the Quakers. Apart from attacking Israel, westernized Christian Palestinianists have gone to great lengths to ridicule and invalidate Christian Zionism.

In 2004, the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America declared Christian Zionism to be an “extreme form of dispensationalism,” a “distortion of the biblical message,” and an impediment to a “just peace in Israel/Palestine.” In 2007, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland accused Christian Zionism of portraying “an unjust God, with an unjust people.”

Many of the books attacking Christian Zionists accuse the latter of advocating “Armageddon” rather than justice. As well as removing the prophetic significance of the scriptures, books such as Anglican vicar Reverend Dr Stephen Sizer’s Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon? misrepresent and deride centuries of mainstream protestant tradition.

Sizer, a virulent opponent of Israel, believes there is a sharp distinction between God’s covenant with Israel and the beliefs of Jesus’s disciples. “There is,” he says, “no evidence that the apostles believed that the Jewish people still had a divine right to the land, or that Jewish possession of the land would be important, let alone that Jerusalem would remain a central aspect of God’s purposes for the world.” Sizer adds: Jerusalem and the Land of Israel “have been made irrelevant to God’s redemptive purposes.”

Sizer is a regular contributor to Islamic media outlets, including Iran’s Press TV. He has been photographed with Arafat, and with Zahra Mostafavi Khomeini, the daughter of the Ayatollah. He has met with – and publicly defended – Raed Salah, a Hamas fundraiser who accuses the Jews of making Passover bread with the blood of Christian children. (There are numerous photos of Sizer and Salah enjoying each other’s company.)

Sizer seems unembarrassed by the fact that his own remarks and writings stray into anti-Semitic territory. For instance, he once stated that the reason Jews “were expelled from the land was that they were more interested in money and power and treated the poor and aliens with contempt.” In 2011, he posted a link on his Facebook page to an anti-Semitic website called “The Ugly Truth,” and in the same year, he went to Malaysia to work with Viva Palestina, whose leading activists include Holocaust-denier Matthias Chang.

Another Anglican notable, Desmond Tutu, has likened Zionism to racism and repeatedly referred to Israel as an “apartheid” state. He is also a supporter of boycotts. Tutu, a friend of Yasser Arafat and Hamas’s Ismail Haniyeh, accepted the role as patron of Sabeel International in 2003. This is the same Sabeel that is spearheading the Christian Palestinianist movement in the Middle East. It is perhaps no surprise that US attorney Alan Dershowitz has called Tutu a “racist and a bigot.”

The number of Christian organizations censuring the Jewish state is increasing. It is common for left-wing Christians to exonerate the Palestinians of any historical and contemporary accountability, thereby holding Israel solely responsible for ending the crisis. In 2009, the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches released a statement condemning the so-called Israeli occupation and encouraging a boycott of goods made in settlements. Significantly, the World Council of Churches is also calling for the internationalization of Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, Christian Aid and the Quakers are calling on the UK government to implement a total ban of settlement goods. In North America, the United Church of Canada is heading towards an official boycott policy. And the Church of England, which has a large overseas membership, is considering whether it should adopt the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniers Programme in Palestine and Israel. The EAPPI is blatantly pro-Palestinian and holds the Jewish state solely responsible for resolving the situation in the West Bank.

Islamic appropriation of the Jesus and crucifixion

When Arafat made his first Christmas appearance in Bethlehem in 1995, he invoked the Christian nativity by crying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill towards men.” To which the crowd responded, “In spirit and blood we will redeem thee, O Palestine!”

Bethlehem obviously held a special place in Arafat’s heart. Not because he had any special love for Jesus and Christianity but because it was a political rallying point. Bethlehem, according to Arafat, was the “birthplace of the first Palestinian Christian, Jesus Christ.”

Arafat’s reference to the nativity is obviously a ploy to unite Muslims and Christian Arabs against Israel. In and of itself, this is unspectacular, but when placed in the wider context of Islamic replacement theology, the (mis)use of Jesus is sinister. (Arafat not only proclaimed that Jesus was a Palestinian but is “our Lord the Messiah,” which is an astonishing statement for a Muslim to make. Referring to Jesus as Lord is to detract from the strict monotheism of the faith, a grave sin known as shirk.)

The appropriation of the crucifixion by Muslim Palestinians in their war on Israel is puzzling. The image of the crucified Palestinian/Jesus is a common propaganda motif. And yet the Quran says that Jesus wasn’t put on the cross but was raised up to heaven. So, not only are Muslims committing an act of apostasy by referring to Jesus as “our Lord” they are even refuting their own sacred scripture by claiming Jesus was a crucified Palestinian. (This is not the only example of Muslims cherry-picking the Quran to suit their agenda. The Quran explicitly states the Land of Israel is a Jewish and not a Muslim inheritance.)

Other times, Jesus is referred to as a Shahid, a holy martyr of Islam. Arafat often referred to Jesus as the first Palestinian martyr, which is historically incorrect and is at odds with Islamic tradition. There are no references to Jesus as a Shahid in Islamic works, and it is impossible for Jesus to be a martyr if he did not die on the cross, which is the view of the Quran.

The final step in the Palestinianization of Bethlehem is the news that UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – has approved a Palestinian bid to categorize the Church of the Nativity as a World Heritage Site.

It is fairly obvious that the Palestinian bid is politically motivated. UNESCO’s approval effectively endorses a specifically Palestinian culture and heritage that is distinct from the history of Israel.

Obviously, the invention of the Palestinian Jesus and the misuse of the crucifixion as a political weapon is just one more lethal narrative aimed at demonizing Israel and is not an authentic reconciliation with Christianity. In fact, the Christian population in the West Bank has ebbed away under PA rule. And yet Christians in the West seem happy to play along with the pretense that nothing is amiss because they both share the same enemy – Israel.

The globalization of Chrislam

One of the most alarming developments in the Christian world is the alliance between a number of evangelicals and the Muslim world. Examples of cooperation abound.

Christians and Muslims for Peace (CAMP) is an organization that devotes itself to discovering common ground between the two religions through an exploration of the Quran and the Bible. Based in California, CAMP is led by Dr William Baker, the former chairman of the neo-Nazi Populist Party. In 2002, Baker was fired from Crystal Cathedral Ministries when his anti-Semitic inclinations and ties to the Far Right were exposed by the media. (This is the same Robert Schuller who once told an Imam of the Muslim American Society that “if he came back in 100 years and found his descendants Muslims, it wouldn’t bother him.”)

“A Common Word Between Us and You” is an open letter from the leaders of the Muslim community to Christians, published in 2007. It opens with the lines: “Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world.” A large number of Christians responded positively to the statement. The most highly publicized response was written by a group of four academics from the University of Yale, entitled Loving God and Neighbor Together. The response included the lines: “Before we ‘shake your hand’ in responding to your letter, we ask forgiveness of the All-Merciful One and of the Muslim community around the world.”

In 2009, Rick Warren, the well-known evangelical author and pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, addressed 8,000 Muslims at a national convention in Washington D.C. The convention was organized by Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), which champions terrorist organizations and disseminates extremist literature. Since then, Warren has been involved in an initiative called the King’s Way, a partnership with a number of California mosques, which involves the establishment of a set of principles outlining the shared principles of Islam and Christianity, including the declaration that both faiths worship the same God.

A number of evangelicals, including Stephen Sizer, Presbyterian writer Gary Burge (who has criticized Judaism’s “territorial world view”) and Professor Donald Wagner, have participated in events sponsored by the Bridges of Faith (an evangelical Christian-Muslim dialogue group) and the Muslim World Islamic Call Society, which until recently was funded by the Gaddafi regime in Libya. On the Bridges of Faith website, the dialogue group states that it “looks forward to a day when we can make our deliberations public through the publication of papers, open meetings and media outreach in order to spread the message of tolerance and commonality of values to a wider community of grass-roots groups, as well as a wider community of inter-religious dialogue.” It remains to be seen whether “the message of tolerance” will extend to the State of Israel.

In February 2008, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, told Radio 4’s World at One that some aspects of Sharia law should be introduced in the UK to accommodate Britain’s Muslim community. The archbishop’s comments were welcomed by Mohammed Shafiq, the director of the Ramadhan Foundation, who said: “Sharia law for civil matters is something which has been introduced in some western countries with much success.”

This, and other bridge-building exercises, may turn out to be the start of a political variation of Chrislam. Strictly speaking, Chrislam is a syncretistic religion of Nigerian origin that combines Islam and Christianity. Established in the 1970s, the followers of Chrislam recognize both the Bible and the Qur’an as holy texts. The religion is very local and only commands around 1,500 members.

Nonetheless, the principles behind Chrislam are the same principles that are shaping an alliance between western Christianity and Islam. Indeed, there are already various so-called insider movements in the Christian missionary industry. (Insider movements are when Christians from a Muslim background still attend mosque and perform Islamic rituals.)

Open Doors USA President Carl Moeller has referred to the insider movement as a “fourth branch” of Christianity: “Muslims are turning to faith in Jesus Christ, and out of that movement is emerging an entirely new way of expressing Christianity within the context of the Middle Eastern culture.” However, this “entirely new way” has been criticized by right-wing evangelicals for not teaching sound Christian doctrine.

The fact that many Christians are reaching out to Islam suggests they are pre-empting the very real possibility that Islam will be the dominant religion in Europe in fifty years’ time. If this is the case, then it is a tacit admission of defeat and an example of self-imposed dhimmitude. Dhimmitude, says Ye’or, is the “surrender of the Christian clergy and political leaders to the Muslim jihad armies, and their submission to Islamic domination of both their lands and peoples.” In exchange, Christians receive a pledge of protection or dhimma.

According to Ye’or, the first step towards dhimmitude and the Islamization of the Church is “the removal of the Gospels from their Judaic matrix.” For this to happen, Jesus the Jew must be killed and replaced by Jesus the Palestinian.

The ethnic cleansing of Jesus and the Jews

In recent decades, the quest to rescue Jesus’ Jewish identity has yielded much fruit. Geza Vermes, Robert Eisenman, E.P Sanders, James Tabor, R. T. Herford, George Foot Moor and Hyam Maccoby are among those who have highlighted Jesus’ Jewish identity and origins. Combined with the shared interest in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jews and Christians have found common ground in the exploration of the Jewish roots of Christianity.

Jesus was born of a Jewish woman in the Judean town of Bethlehem, and was given the Jewish name of “Yeshua,” literally “Joshua.” He was circumcised, attended synagogue services and the Temple, wore tassels, was referred to as “Rabbi,” and observed the Sabbath, Passover and Sukkots. He quoted from the Hebrew bible and clearly saw himself as fulfilling the scriptures in some way. He held the Torah in high esteem and reiterated the importance of the Shema. He also made it clear that he had “come for the lost sheep of Israel” and that “Salvation is of the Jews.”
However, Christian Palestinianism has a done a great deal to undermine this. The Palestinian Jesus falsehood is a shocking return to the “Jesus was an Aryan” falsehood of the Far Right or the Church-sanctioned portrayal of Jesus as a fair-skinned, blue-eyed gentile. The identicide of the Jewish Jesus is also redolent of an ancient heresy known as Gnosticism, sometimes described as a metaphysical anti-Semitism.

Ye’or, in her book Eurabia: the Euro-Arab Axis, writes of the theological similarities between Palestinianism and Marcion gnosticism, which rejects the Hebrew Bible and believes the God of Israel to be a lower entity than the God of the New Testament. Likewise, Christian Palestinianism either ignores the Hebrew scriptures or wants to de-Zionize the prophecies that do not suit the Palestinian agenda. As with Marcionism, God is no longer the God of Israel with a special interest in the fate of the Jewish people, but the God of Palestine.

The ethnic cleansing of Jesus is part of a wider effort to de-Judaize the Jewish people in order to undermine their claim to the land of Israel. So as well as being de-chosen by God, the people of Israel are not even Jewish, according to some Christian Palestinianists. In the mid-1990s, the Palestinian Authority aired a program that claimed Palestinians are the real descendants of the biblical Israelites. One of the so-called experts who was invited to appear on the show was Jarid el-Qadaweh, who declared: “In my blood there is more of the Children of Israel than in that of Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu.” Mitri Raheb, the pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, has used the figure of Jesus to question the ethnic validity of the State of Israel:

“I’m sure if we were to do a DNA test between David, who was a Bethlehemite, and Jesus, born in Bethlehem, and Mitri, born just across the street from where Jesus was born, I’m sure the DNA will show that there is a trace. While, if you put King David, Jesus and Netanyahu, you will get nothing, because Netanyahu comes from an East European tribe who converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages.”

Like el-Qadaweh, Raheb claims the average Palestinian is native to the land and is genetically similar to Jesus. In contrast, the average Israeli is an interloper from eastern Europe and is genetically dissimilar from Jesus. This raises the controversial question: is there such a thing as a Jewish gene? Extensive DNA testing does show there is such a thing. Genetic studies on the Y chromosome show that modern Jewish populations have a predominantly Middle Eastern ancestry, thereby discrediting the theory that Ashkenazi Jews are descendants of the Khazars (a semi-nomadic Turkic people from the Middle Ages). But the question of “who is a Jew?” is wide open to interpretation and has been debated for thousands of years, sometimes with devastating consequences.

Conclusion

Christian Palestinianism is a religion of resentment. It is a projection of a sense of inferiority onto an external scapegoat. Thwarted by failure, Christian Palestinianists blame their problems on “the Jews.” This is done by killing Jesus the Jew and resurrecting him as Jesus the Palestinian. The God of Israel is also declared dead, only to be replaced by the anti-Semitic God of Palestine.

Of all the anti-Israel discourses that exist today, Christian Palestinianism is perhaps one of the most shocking. Shocking because it wants to de-Judaize both Jesus and the Bible, as well as undermine Jewish identity. Shocking because it also revives the notion of Jews as killers of Christ. Moreover, the post-Holocaust reconciliation of Jews and Christians is lethally undermined. The work of Geza Vermes, and others like him, who have examined in close detail the Jewishness of Jesus, is being cast aside in favour of a quasi-gnostic Jesus.

On a theological level, Christian Palestinianism is entirely self-defeating. If God no longer honors his covenant with the Jews and the Land of Israel, then the whole foundation of Christianity collapses. A God who changes his mind about the Jews is no longer the God of Abraham, Moses or Jesus. Palestinianism is not only un-Biblical, it is un-Christian.

Pro-Palestinian Christians in the West need to take a long, hard look at themselves and ask whether it is ethical to be consorting with liars, terrorists and anti-Semites. They should also ask themselves if their actions are likely to lead to a fresh outburst of religiously-motivated anti-Semitism. The trouble is, history shows that many Christians need no excuse to persecute the Jews. There seems to be an in-built tendency to raise their fists against the descendants of Isaac and Jacob. This is bad news not only for the State of Israel and the Jewish diaspora, but also for Christianity itself, which will not survive another destructive wave of anti-Semitism.

As it says in Ezekiel 35, “Because you harbored an ancient hostility and delivered the Israelites over to the sword at the time of their calamity, the time their punishment reached its climax, therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I will give you over to bloodshed and it will pursue you. Since you did not hate bloodshed, bloodshed will pursue you.”

Let’s hope Christian Palestinianists take note of Ezekiel’s prophecy. But given their track record, they would probably decry its exclusivism and attempt to de-Zionize it.