Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I Think...

Archbishop Elias Chacour speaks with a fierce simplicity and an uncompromising passion. A modern-day prophet and our very first speaker on the trip, Chacour had me riveted from the minute he walked into the room. This man lost everything during the Israeli War of Independence in 1948 – again, a symbol of differing histories and perspectives: Palestinians refer to this event as naqbah (the “Catastrophe”) – and is now the founder and leader of an interfaith Christian school that provides kids with otherwise few opportunities the opportunity to succeed. He is an Arab Israeli, gaining citizenship in the State of Israel, yet has a marker on his ID to identify him as completely separate from a Jewish Israeli. When asked if the current situation is, as Jimmy Carter described it, a system of apartheid, he responded simply, “If it’s not apartheid, what is it?”

I haven’t yet read Carter’s book, but I have heard enough of what others think of him. “Anti-Semitic” is always a fun one, and normally the most common. Yet just as many around the world can differentiate Americans from our government (thank God), can’t people do the same with Israel? When Carter attacks the Israeli government, he is not attacking Israeli citizens – and he is certainly not attacking the Jewish people as a whole.

Here we come to the trickiest part of the whole Palestine-Israel equation: Anytime you criticize Israel, you are often called anti-Semitic, as if your critique is just a well-concealed, deep-seated hatred for Jewish people. (For many people, my words so far could be enough to indict me on the same charges.)

Why is this? Is the State of Israel the fulfillment of prophecy, and thus must be defended at all costs? Christian fundamentalists would certainly say so – many cheered during the Six-Day War in 1967, convinced that once Israel took the Temple Mount, they would destroy the Dome of the Rock (so predominant in modern pictures of Jerusalem) and replace it with the Third Temple, thus ushering in the long-awaited-for second coming of Christ. This, in turn, would begin a seven year-long reign of the Antichrist (take your pick on this one – the solid theologians of the Left Behind series would say it’s the leader of the UN…but, of course, that is Biblically-based and not a political statement in the least) a period of time during which, incidentally, many Jews would either be killed or converted.

That doesn’t sound very pro-Semite to me. But, when it comes to the Rapture, I guess moral values and hypocrisy take a backseat to the prophecy spelled out in that wonderfully clear and transparent Book of Revelation.

The question is this: Can we, as Christians, love and affirm our Jewish brothers and sisters without compromising our compassion for Palestinian Christian sisters and brothers?

I would say absolutely. And I think the first thing to do is separate Judaism from the State of Israel. When you criticize the actions of a country, you are not fundamentally questioning the value of their citizens. I think Americans are all-too-familiar with this concept.


At 7:11 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 8:59 AM , Blogger Meow said...

Very good analysis!

I laughed at your description of the book of Revelation.

At 11:21 AM , Blogger david said...

Anti-Semite! Sell your hate somewhere else!!

At 5:41 PM , Blogger Pastor Lori said...

So, how do you *really* feel about this, m'ijo?
I'm glad you had the opportunity to see the situation in person, and to continue to learn how God will have us be in the midst of this crazy creation, which, remarkable, She still loves.

At 4:16 PM , Blogger Laura said...

Well, yes. I think Christians can and should be able to criticize the state of Israel without being called anti-Semitic. After all, pushing people out of their homes is not very "Christian" or nice.

And for the rest of the world that aren't Christian, Jewish or Muslim, they should also be able to criticize the state of Israel without being viewed as anti-Semitic. In political matters (like I view this situation to be), sometimes it's okay to take prophesies, religious texts, etc. out of it!

At 5:18 PM , Blogger david said...



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