Thursday, December 24, 2009
Lutherans Denounce Israel, Just in Time for Christmas – Mark D. Tooley
Led by a Palestinian Lutheran bishop, 16 Palestinians Christians have blasted Israel in a new declaration that the 4.9 million Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is obligingly disseminating.“We…declare that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is a sin against God and humanity because it deprives the Palestinians of their basic human rights, bestowed by God,” asserted the “Kairos Palestine Document. “It distorts the image of God in the Israeli who has become an occupier just as it distorts this image in the Palestinian living under occupation.” Not content to criticize the Jews, the manifesto also excoriates Christians who support Israel. “We declare that any theology, seemingly based on the Bible or on faith or on history, that legitimizes the occupation, is far from Christian teachings, because it calls for violence and holy war in the name of God Almighty, subordinating God to temporary human interests, and distorting the divine image in the human beings living under both political and theological injustice.”
ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, from his Chicago office, evidently wasted no time hailing the new appeal, though it simply rehashed traditional Palestinian complaints against Israel, Christian or not. “The ELCA has received with somber, yet hopeful hearts this authentic word from our brothers and sisters in the Palestinian Christian community,” Hanson rejoiced. “Their perspective on the current conflict between Israel and the Palestinians warrants our respect and attentiveness.” Hanson pledged that we “join these leaders in their search for signs of hope and positive responses in the midst of a dire and seemingly intractable situation.”
The Kairos Palestine Document cited a litany of unpleasant “realities” for Palestinians, for which Israel (backed by Christian allies in the U.S.) is evidently exclusively at fault, beginning with the assertion that “the reality is one of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, deprivation of our freedom and all that results from this situation.” The international Religious Left often likes to speak of “kairos” moments as specially historic times when Liberation Theology is ostensibly more relevant than ever. Deprived of the pleasure of bashing the old Latin right-wing military dictatorships of past decades, or old Apartheid South Africa, Israel remains virtually the only nation, besides the U.S., that the Religious Left still anathematizes with special relish.
Christians barely comprise one percent of Palestinians any more, thanks to low birth rates and mass immigration. But the few remaining Christians are often convenient props for the international Religious Left’s ongoing campaign against Israel. And many Palestinian Christian representatives, as a besieged minority, have always felt obliged to burnish their nationalist credentials by condemning Israel as loudly as any Muslim Palestinian. Declarations against Israel like the Kairos document also useful excite attention and support from Western Oldline Protestant elites, who otherwise are uninterested in the plight of Christian minorities struggling to survive within Islam.
This Palestine Kairos manifesto is apparently an outgrowth of the Swiss-based World Council of Churches Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF). According to the ELCA news service, PIEF is an “advocacy” initiative to “help Palestinian Christians strengthen their presence in the Holy Land and mobilize churches around the world for peace with justice in the Middle East.” In other words, PIEF is enlisting Palestinian Christians to publicly condemn Israel for the benefit of Western, and especially American ears, with hopes of minimizing U.S. support for Israel.
Lutheran bishop Munib Younan of Jerusalem was apparently more than happy to help out with the anti-Israel campaign by helping to organize the Palestine Kairos blast, which is predictably modeled on a similar condemnation by theologians in 1985 of racist South Africa, with which the international Religious Left always compares Israel. ”Our Kairos document is an expression of the aspirations of Palestinian Christians inspired by our common spiritual heritage,” Bishop Younan helpfully explained to the ELCA news service. Naturally, these aspirations do not include any concerns about Hamas or radical Islam, which apparently is treating Palestinian Christians just find and do not excite any worry at all.
Since radical Islam supposedly poses no threat to Christians, the Palestine Kairos Document describes the true dangers to Palestinian Christians: Israel’s “separation wall,” which ostensibly turns Palestinian villages into “prisons,” the “daily humiliation” of military checkpoints, “Israeli disregard” for international law, and Israeli “discrimination” against Arabs within Israel itself. Israeli settlements “ravage” Palestinian land. And Palestinians prisoners “languish” in Israeli jails for seemingly no reason. It also complains about Palestinian refugees, who have patiently been “waiting for their right of return, generation after generation.” Israel’s security measures against Palestinian terror are unneeded, they professed, because “if there were no occupation, there would be no resistance, no fear, no insecurity.” Of course, what exactly is “occupied?” Just the West Bank and Gaza, or is all of Israel an unjust “occupation” begging liberation? The manifesto revealingly does not explain. But it provides a hint by describing Israel’s founding as a “Nakba” i.e. “catastrophe” that Palestinians will never forget.
Naturally, these Palestinian Christian spokespersons want “economic sanctions and boycott” against Israel, and “everything produced by the occupation,” despite largely failed attempts by some left-leaning church elites to divest from firms doing business with Israel. And they pledged that “Christian love invites us to resist” the ”evil” and “sin” that is the Israeli occupation. “Resistance is a right and a duty for the Christian,” they insisted. “We do not resist with death but rather through respect of life,” they asserted, evidently pointing to civil disobedience. More mercurially, they added: “We respect and have a high esteem for all those who have given their life for our nation.” To whom did they refer? Suicide bombers? Rock throwing youth? Hamas militia?
“The roots of ‘terrorism’ are in the human injustice committed and in the evil of the occupation,” the Palestinian Christians inevitably declared, of course forgetting that Palestinian terrorism began well before any Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Or maybe they did not forget, since they never defined what exactly is “occupied.” And of course, they want “repentance” by “fundamentalist” Christians primarily in America who have purportedly turned God’s Word into a “weapon with which to slay the oppressed” while offering a “theological cover-up for the injustice we suffer.”
This Palestine Kairos Document not so covertly portrays Israel itself as an illegitimate nation that must be dissolved in favor of a Palestinian alternative. In such an unlikely eventuality, Christians likely would not be very welcome in a newly “liberated” Palestine. And the international Religious Left of course would have no interest in the plight of Palestinian Christians struggling to survive under unrestrained Islamic rule. Brandishing such a proposal is evidently some Lutherans’ way of wishing “merry Christmas” to the land where Christ was born.