The Associated Press reported Oct. 24 that the Israeli government is pissed:
“Israel said Sunday that a meeting of Middle East bishops was hijacked by enemies of the Jewish state, after the gathering at the Vatican largely blamed Israel for conflict in the region.”
“In a communique at the end of their two-week meeting, the bishops demanded that Israel accept U.N. resolutions calling for an end to its occupation of Arab lands, and told Israel it shouldn’t use the Bible to justify ‘injustices’ against the Palestinians.”
So, in other words, Israel is mad because a group of bishops accurately described the situation. Any study of the history of Zionism and Israel’s occupation is basically a study in absurdity – not to mention dishonesty and at times, irrationality – since that’s how Israel and it’s supporters try justifying their project; a summary of which is far too long for a short blog post.
Here’s a short and useful summary provided by the Israelis instead:
“Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said it was absurd that the Jewish state had been condemned since Israel is the only country in the region where Christians are actually thriving.”
“Palmor also criticized the bishops’ statement that Israel shouldn’t use the Bible to justify ‘injustices’ against the Palestinians.
‘This has never been a policy of any government in Israel, so this position sounds particularly hollow,’ he said. ‘Let he who has never sinned cast the first stone.'”
Good idea, Palmor. Let’s start with your first assertion – that Christianity is thriving in the Jewish State.
It’s well-known that Muslim countries in the Middle East routinely discriminate against Christians; Saudi Arabia is a notorious offender, for example; Egypt is guilty as well. It’s also true that Israel is a secular state that accords religious tolerance in its laws.
Supposedly, Israel is different, according to the propagandists. Echoing Palmor, Jewish People Policy Institute-head Avinoam Bar-Yosef said Saturday “that we should not entrust the Palestinians with protecting the right of worship for Christians” because “Christians are pleased with Israel providing security [rather] than Palestinians.” And Rabbi David Rosen, adviser to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and based in Israel, told the Synod of Bishops October 13 that “insisted the situation of Christians in Israeli is ‘totally incomparable’ to the challenges they face in other Middle Eastern countries where democracy and equality are weaker,” while describing the situation in the Palestinian territories as “much more complex.”
Simplifying matters are people like Daniel Pipes who claim that “Christians and secular Muslims particularly appreciate Israel’s protection at a time when Palestinian politics has taken an increasingly Islamist cast.” It’s a narrative that’s bolstered by Christian fundamentalist organizations sending 100 million dollars to charitable causes, according to International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. There are other Christian Zionist groups that support Israel as well, for political and theological reasons, and the image they present is one of religious freedom for Christians and a united front of Christians and Jews against the “Islamic threat.”
There’s the image, and then there’s the truth.
The truth comes not from “the best history of Arab propaganda” as Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon put it, but from Christians who experience Israel’s freedom.
Take the Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, who said last year that the “ongoing discrimination within Israel threatens Christians and Muslims alike.” Condemning the West Bank apartheid wall – a big part of the “much more complex” situation as described by Bar-Yosef – Twal said “We have a new generation of Christians who cannot visit the holy places of their faith that are only a few kilometers from their place of residence.”
Then there’s the long list of Palestinian Christians who have made it their life’s cause to fighting Zionism; one who isn’t on this list is Fouzi El-Asmar, author of To Be An Arab In Israel and a former political prisoner of Israel.
So the question is, if Christians are thriving, then why have so many of them opposed Israel and its occupation over the years? Perhaps because “Israel discriminates against groups including Muslims, Jehova’s Witnesses, Reform Jews, Christians, women and Bedouin.” Arab propaganda? No – a State Department human rights report published last year. Certain sectors of Israeli society is also intolerant of Christians, as exemplified by Orthodox Jews burning bibles two years ago.
As for the bible being the basis of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians, Palmor’s criticism seems odd when one considers that the main premise of Israel’s existence – other than as a refuge from anti-Semitic persecution – was “by declaring that Jews are a people, a fact implicit and explicit in the Jewish biblical and cultural concept of ‘Am Yisrael.'”
According to www.zionism-israel.com, the Old Testament “forms the moral and cultural basis of Zionist ideology and aspirations.” The late Edward Said wrote in his landmark The Question Of Palestine how then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin – who invaded Lebanon in 1982, killing 20,000 people and enabled the Phalange to carry out the Sabra/Shatila massacres – “spoke constantly of ‘Judea and Samaria’ as ‘rightful’ parts of the Jewish State (claims made on the basis of the Old Testament and without so much as a reference to the land’s actual inhabitants).” Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion “was deeply influenced by the Bible, particularly by the writings of the prophets.”
All this led to Israeli-born anti-racist Gila Atzmon, in an article titled “An insight into Israeli identity,” to see the close similarity between the Old Testament and Israel’s mass murder of Gazans during Operation Cast Lead:
“The Hebrew Bible’s saturation with violence and extermination of others may throw some light on the horrifying genocide conducted momentarily in Gaza by the Jewish state.”
So in the tradition of Palestinian resistance, let us – with or without sin – cast many stones at Yigal Palmor, the Jewish State and at its core ideology of Zionism. If they must make noise, at least it’ll be in pain instead of being in false indignation.