Long after the sirens fall silent, long after the windows in Tel Aviv stop shaking from the pounding of rockets, long after the dead are buried, the war of words will continue. The genie is out of the bottle. Its name? Antisemitism. While underground tunnels were being dug along the Gazan/Israeli border, antisemitism travelled the airways in the media, emerged as graffiti on our walls, before exploding in hate marches. The most ancient of hatreds, it mutates in every generation. Descendants of Holocaust survivors recognize the signs. Whether raised as Jews or Christians, whether they believe in God or not, whether living in London, New York, Sydney, Munich or Breslau, they express raw fear. “It’s happening all over again. And it starts with words.”
Most virulent of all is Christian antisemitism. Take an innocuous-sounding Easter homily entitled: “What is the Significance of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ to Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation?” (Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center). “We believe… that some of our Palestinian forefathers and foremothers witnessed that event, 2,000 years ago… Palestinian Christians and Muslims have been oppressed by the government of Israel for many years and they have been resisting the illegal occupation of their homeland, Palestine.”
Such statements contradict history and the Word of God.
Firstly, the name Palestinian. The early Christians were Jews, their number including many priests (Acts 6:7). To the Romans they were a Jewish sect known as “followers of the Way”. There never was a Palestinian people. The Philistines, from which the name Palestine is derived, were an ancient Aegean seafaring people who vanished from history in 604 BC. Palestine is the name the Romans gave Israel to wipe out its memory but also to insult them with the name of their enemies. During the British Mandate period, after liberation from its Turkish overlords, Eretz Israel was renamed Palestine. Hence the name The Palestine Post, a Jewish paper. Since the fall of the ancient state of Israel in 70 CE, there has always been a Jewish presence in the land. When Jews returned in greater numbers at the turn of the 20th century, the land thrived, drawing neighboring Arabs seeking better economic conditions.
To quote our late founder Mother Basilea Schlink: “If God Himself has made a covenant with His people to give them this land as an inheritance for ever, how then can the question be raised among Christians as to whether another people should possess this land today? As part of His covenant with Abraham, God gave him the Promised Land as a possession for his descendants … ‘To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for an inheritance.’ (Psalm 105:8ff.)” (Israel, My Chosen People) She further elucidated that God’s covenant with Abraham and His chosen people is not a possession and inheritance in heaven, but the land of Canaan. All the biblical prophecies speak of Israel being brought back to her own country, the land of her fathers, the land of Canaan, which was promised to Abraham.
Secondly, reference is made to “the Israeli apartheid system imposed on them by the Israeli occupying forces.” Again, untrue. Interestingly, it has been noted that the only ones not demonstrating now are Arab Israelis. Why should they? From the inception of the state of Israel they have enjoyed equal rights, with some rising to prominence in every area of Israel society: sports, medicine, the judiciary – you name it.
Thirdly, perhaps most offensive of all, Palestinians are compared to Christ in His Passion. “Indeed, the resurrection of Jesus Christ was preceded by his humiliation, suffering, and death. Our Palestinian people continue to endure suffering and humiliation at the hands of the Israeli army.” The implications of such claims are serious, especially in connection with the introductory Bible verse “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his suffering by becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10).
Again, to quote Mother Basilea: “The conflict connected with the land of Canaan is of the greatest significance, not only for Israel but also for the Christian world. Will the latter see the purposes of God behind current events? Once again Christendom is in danger of blindly opposing the Word of God and His promises to Israel, and ultimately His covenant and plan of salvation. This would amount to perpetuating the guilt of past centuries against Israel, and thereby against God Himself, and bringing it to a further climax.”
She warned that those who support antisemitism may one day find themselves on the side of God’s enemies, just as many Christians in Nazi Germany failed to see Hitler as God’s enemy until it was too late. The real target of this hatred is the election of this people and thus the One who elected them: God. This will become especially evident in the end times, which are characterized by hatred against God. (Israel, My Chosen People)
Footage of the scenes in London at the recent Armistrice pro-Palestinian march is deeply disturbing. Is this the London I was proud to call the place of my birth? There was a cross-section of society among the crowds screaming “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” (advocating the end of Israel) and “Ceasefire now,” which would allow Hamas to regroup and cause even more havoc and deaths.
I fear for my people, I fear for my Anglican church.