There is a false dichotomy that is always being pushed by the mainstream media around the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They infer that we are faced with a stark choice, having to side with either Israel or Palestine. But, is it really so bleak? Do we, as Christians, not have room enough to manoeuvre our own course in this conflict; one that neither gives license to Israel nor Islamic jihadis? I want to show that we do and we can by trying to tease out and explore the ideas of Christian Solidarity around this issue.
We must and should acknowledge how Israel is persecuting Christians. Palestinian Christians suffer at the hands of Israel because they are Palestinian and because Israel wants their Jewish state (given their history – something I can understand). However, this does not excuse Israel for its treatment of Christians, Palestinian or otherwise.
Take, for instance, the plight of the Quaisyah family, who had their restaurant and guest house demolished by Israel. For what reason? Were they aiding and abetting terrorists? No, they were innocent Christians just trying to live their lives and were subject to this treatment on account of merely being Palestinian. The Israeli authorities regularly refuse Christians the right to worship in their holy sites. Palestinian Christians, who have faced a diaspora, regularly cite as their reasons for leaving the holy land, the crippling economic stagnation and hardships imposed upon them by the state of Israel. It is true to say that, for many Palestinian Christians, Israel is a major threat, but they are certainly powerless to speak out concerning the other threat – which is the Islamists; but more on that later. This plight drove Christians to bear arms during the last intifada.
Then, there is the plight of the Messianic Jews; the cousins of the gentile Church among the Jewish people. Consider the assassination attempt against the Ortiz family, in which a gift basket was sent to them containing a small bomb; blowing up, and injuring their 15-year-old boy. Why, because they are Jews who believe and follow the Messiah Yahushua. This small, Messianic community are regularly harassed and threatened; such complaints often meeting police indifference. A firebomb attack was also launched against a church used by Messianic Jews. Such incidents are condemned by the state of Israel, but sufficient police follow-through seems to be inconsistent. A Jewish settler even stormed the temple of the Holy Sepulchre.
So, I ask all of you Christian Zionists, where is your love for the body of Christ? Are these not disciples of Christ? Do they not deserve your solidarity and support? How shameful it is for you to side with groups who persecute your brothers and sisters, many of whom explicitly deny Yahushua as the Messiah! Many Rabbis, literally, not metaphorically, are opposed to the Gospel, and are, by definition (within Christian terminology), anti-Christ. Have you thought about that, Christian Zionists, that you have sided with those opposed to the Gospel? The defence often given is that it’s connected to prophecy; that GOD is not finished with the Jews and the establishment of Israel, it is all part of GOD’s plan. Perhaps it is. GOD knows best, however, this does not justify your failure in discipleship to stand with your brothers and sisters who do follow our Lord today.
That being said, Christians must not fall into the trap of simply getting on board with the ‘Palestinian cause,’ which is led and run by Islamists. These terrorist networks, many of whom support the Palestinian cause, are reluctant to condemn the indiscriminate targeting of civilians in Israel. They even call ‘friends’ or ‘laud,’ which is in itself an injustice. There is a reason why, in this most recent round of battles, bombs are falling on Gaza, and not the West Bank. It is simple – no missiles coming out of the West Bank into Israel. Let us not forget; each of us would expect our national government to do something if hundreds of missiles were being shot at our home city from a region near to our country. Why do we expect the Jewish people to do anything less? Yet, how does that legitimate fight justify denying Christians, or any other Palestinian, their right to worship, or build a successful business?
The reality is, that if the Palestinians would get out of bed with Islamists, and confront Israel in the same way Gandhi confronted the British Empire, or how Martin Luther King confronted the apartheid of the USA – they would quickly win over everyone’s sympathies. It is their alliance with Islamists that is preventing them from winning universal support. How can I support Palestinians who are in bed with terrorists who are persecuting Christians?
Christians must not be silent (as Palestinian Christians must be, for their survival) about the persecution of Christians by the Islamists, who are leading Palestine. Hamas is committed to killing any Muslim who embraces the Christian faith. They curtail Christians’ right to evangelise Muslims. If a Muslim woman marries a Christian man, the family will face harassment. Islamist terrorists once even stormed the Church of the Nativity, shooting up the place and, sadly, killing a monk. Christian schools and churches have been attacked, as well as Christian businesses. There have been incidents of attempted and actual forced marriages and conversions. Christian women suffer harassment. Even Christian Palestinians have suffered forced confiscation of lands and properties by Muslim Palestinians; an irony of ironies.
So, what position can Christians take in this conflict? Amid the many offered solutions, we must first challenge Israel to be even more discriminating in its legitimate war against Islamist terrorists. They should be finding ways to allow economic success, security, and peace to Palestinians who do not pose an existential threat to Israel. Likewise, Christian families of Palestine should be allowed to worship freely, own property freely, and go about their lives unhindered or harassed by Jewish settlers. Israel must reward those who choose a path of peace such as the Christian community. The Islamist terrorist networks need to be destroyed, Islamist networks of support dismantled, and sympathies for these Islamists exposed for what they are – supremacists hell-bent on establishing something far, far worse than the state of Israel.
Christians around the globe must work to support the idea of a Christian State in the Middle East. A revolutionary idea, yes, but one that is absolutely needed. Christians will never be free or equal in a society dominated by everyone other than themselves. Christians of the Middle East need to be able to control their own economic, political, and social destiny. Most crucially, they have to be in control of their own security arrangements and have the ability to defend themselves. We can either continue to ignore the lessons of history or seek to learn and employ them. The details of the ‘what and where,’ and the ‘when (as soon as possible) and how’ are for another article. However, the Church must not be under any illusion as to whether or not this must happen. Without it, we may very well see the extinction of the ancient Christian communities in the Middle East.
Crucially, there is a hidden dimension to this debate; a whole issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that simply does not get enough light or discussion, which is this… The Islamists working to defeat Israel are committed to establishing something far more sinister in its place; that being Sharia Law! The Islamic system of law is nothing less than religious apartheid which would treat Christians and Jews far worse than Israel currently treats its religious minorities. We can see this by looking at how Christians were treated by the last Islamic Caliphate to dominate the Middle East; the Ottoman Empire. This empire reduced Christians under its rule to second-class citizens known as Dhimmis (which somewhat ironically means ‘protected person’). However, Christians were far from protected! On the contrary, following the injunction of Surah 9:29, they were instead ‘humiliated or subdued.’ Let a Christian President of the Middle East tell you in his own words:
“…a Christian…is not a full citizen and cannot exercise political rights in any of the countries which were once conquered by Islam.” – Former President of Lebanon, Bashir Gemayel (Lebanon has a secular, not Islamic Constitution).
One of the humiliations heaped upon Christians by the Ottomans was that Christians could not ride on horses without special permission; they were only permitted to use donkeys. Imagine a modern state passing a law that states that Muslims can only ride mopeds and not cars. Would this not be considered Islamophobic? Of course, it would! So, why is it any less so when Sharia Law institutes such practices? Another example of the discriminatory practices of Islam can be found in the Pact of Umar. It specified the number of rules Christians had to comply with, reducing them to ‘subjugated and humiliated people.’
To help you get the picture, consider the following list of just a few of the injustices heaped upon Christians over 1,400 years of various Islamic caliphates (Note, some of these discriminatory practices are still practiced today): Converts to Christianity can be killed; Muslim women can not marry a man if he is a Christian; at a time when slavery was normal, Christians could not own Muslim slaves, but Muslims could own Christian ones; Christians could not build or repair churches; churches were forcibly converted into mosques to show Islamic dominance; Christians were forbidden to carry out public processions; Christians could not ring their bells or make noises so loud as to be heard by Muslims; Christians would have their children kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam (entire armies were created out of this practice); Christian lands were seen as legitimate targets for invasion and raiding; Christians were obliged to give up their seats, or walk in the gutters, or forced to the narrowest part of the road, to make way for Muslims; Christians were forced to wear distinctive clothes, so they could be identified as Christians (think Nazis and the Jewish Star – and you get the picture). I am sure you agree that this is all pretty horrendous. Just think, many (not all) of those who are supporting the cause of Palestine buy into and believe in the imposition of Sharia Law with all of its apartheid-like laws against Christians.
We Christians must engage the world with this third way of looking at the problem; opposing both sides for their injustices, whilst seeking the now, only viable solutions for the Middle East Christians; a state of their own!