How Israel Misuses the Bible

By fuming over a U.N. resolution against Israel’s settlements on Palestinian land, Israeli leaders reveal their final solution for the Palestinians – to deny them property rights and displace them.

Daniel C. Maguire, Consortiumnews.com, December 27, 2016

Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, let the theological cat out of the bag.   When the Security Council rebuked Israel for their land thefts (euphemized as “settlements,”) Mr. Danon replied with pious indignation: “Would you ban the French from building in Paris?”

There, in all of it effrontery, is the imperial theology that birthed Zionism. David Ben Gurion said of Palestine “God promised it to us.” Yitzhak Baer wrote in 1947: “God gave to every nation its place, and to the Jews he gave Palestine.”

Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

So in this hallucinatory theology, just as God gave Paris to France the Zionist deity gave Palestine to Jews including the right to build whatever they want wherever they want it. If the Zionist god posted a “Jews only” sign on Palestine, the presence of non-Jews is a sacrilege and their land claims are specious. If nothing is intelligible outside its history, as the Jesuit paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin put it, Ambassador Danon’s French allusion can only be understood against this theological backdrop.

Yigal Allon, a commander of the Palmach, the elite fighting force of the Haganah, the paramilitary force that fought to drive the British from Palestine, did not eschew the language of “cleansing,” a term now used to describe a “crime against humanity.” He boasted that the Zionists were “cleansing” Palestine of Arabs.

The religious goal of Zionism Ben Gurion said is to “secure … that the whole of Palestine will be Jewish, and not only a part of it.” Joseph Weitz, the administrator responsible for the colonization of Palestine, stated the creed bluntly: “Between ourselves it must be clear that there is no room for both people together in this country. … The only solution is a Palestine … without Arabs.”

In 1919, a fact-finding mission appointed by President Woodrow Wilson reported that in meetings with Zionists it was clear that the Zionists looked forward to a “complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine.”

Zionist ersatz theology imagines a capricious god who is into real estate distribution, a god who hands out eternal deeds to people of his choosing. It is the will of the Creator that all others be cleansed and their property rights be negated.

Misunderstanding the Bible

Zionist theology depends on a fallacious exegesis of the Hebrew Bible. The two key words for properly understanding the Bible are descriptive and prescriptive. Many of the texts of the Bible describe the horrors of a barbaric time. They are not normative or in any sense admirable. The Bible is revered for its prescriptive texts which imagined with classical excellence a whole new social order where “there shall be no poor among you,” (Deut 15::4) and where swords will gradually be melted down into plowshares as violent power is subdued. In the prescriptive texts we see the beauty of Judaism which Zionism violates.

A section of the barrier — erected by Israeli officials to prevent the passage of Palestinians — with graffiti using President John F. Kennedy’s famous quote when facing the Berlin Wall, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” (Photo credit: Marc Venezia)

The Zionists don’t know the distinction between descriptive and prescriptive. They take ugly biblical descriptive texts and use them to make imperial policy. Texts such as this from Deuteronomy: “When Yahweh your God brings you into the land that you are about to enter and occupy, and he clears away many nations before you – the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canannites, the Perizzites, the Hivites … and when Yahweh your God gives them over to you … you must utterly destroy them. … Show them no mercy.” (7:1-11, 91-5, 11:8-9)

Following the “logic” of such texts, the Palestinians are now the new Hittites, Girgashites and Canaanites to whom no mercy is to be shown or property rights to be honored. Zionist theology dishonors Judaism.

The worst of mad men, said the poet Alexander Pope, is a saint gone mad. Ironically Jews should know the horrors that religiously motivated people can wreak. Nothing so animates the will for good or for ill like the tincture of the sacred. Christian animus against Jews unleashed slaughters, pogroms, segregation and influenced the anti-Jewish venom that Nazism mechanized with genocidal force.

The survival of Israel living in accord with international law, alongside a Palestinian state, is the goal that has no need of obstructive faux theology. Mr. Netanyahu like the High Priest is rending his garments in outrage, threatening to smite all nations that would challenge Israel’s manifest destiny to build in Palestine like the French can build in Paris. A bit of curative theology is needed to correct this brutal and ignorant madness. The Security Council gave the cure a jump start.

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In massive shift, Lutherans vote to halt US aid to Israel

Ryan Rodrick Beiler, The Electronic Intifada, 17 August 2016

Lutheran church wants US to halt aid to Israel until settlement construction and human rights abuses end. (Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has become the latest US denomination to take economic action against the Israeli occupation.

At its triennial assembly last week in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the four million-member church, one of the largest in the US, voted on two separate resolutions targeting Israel’s occupation and human rights abuses, passing each by a landslide.

The first resolution calls for the end of US aid to Israel until it ceases violations of international human rights norms, specifically the ongoing construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

It passed by a 751-162 vote, or 82 percent, on 12 August.

The US gives Israel more than $3 billion every year, despite laws that prohibit aid to countries with persistent records of human rights violations. The Obama administration has vowed to increase that sum over the coming decade in what would be the largest military aid package the US has ever given any country.

The second resolution, adopted by a 90 percent margin on Saturday, calls for the creation of a “human rights social criteria investment screen,” specifically citing concerns raised in the church’s Middle East policy.

The Lutheran church has deep ties to Palestinian churches which are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. Reverend Mitri Raheb, whose Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem is one such congregation, was one of the authors of the Kairos Palestine Document which calls on churches around the world to use “boycott and disinvestment as tools of nonviolence for justice, peace and security for all.”

“By adopting this investment screen, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is taking an important step to ensure that we are not profiting from, or complicit in, injustice in the Holy Land and elsewhere,” said church member Jan Miller in a press release from the grassroots group Isaiah 58. The group describes itself as Lutherans advocating “for an end to Israel’s occupation and a just peace for both Israel and Palestine.”

Dramatic shift

According to Tim Fries, an Isaiah 58 activist, much of the assembly was focused on getting the church to move toward taking responsibility for the ways it has been complicit in systemic privilege, “namely, white, European colonial privilege.”

Fries cited huge majority support for resolutions also put to vote at the assembly about supporting refugees and immigrants (by an 842-48 vote), and expressing solidarity with Black Lives Matter (846-73).

Resolutions on fossil fuel divestment and opposition to US military spending also passed with overwhelming support.

Still, the votes on the Israeli occupation marked a notable shift in position.

Dale Loepp, an Isaiah 58 leader, noted that at the previous church assembly in 2013, there was visible and organized opposition from the Zionist activist group Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East.

At that time, Loepp told The Electronic Intifada, the main strategy to defeat such measures was to introduce amendments that removed any economic consequences, allowing such “toothless” resolutions to pass easily.

Similar tactics were used to effectively deflect divestment actions targeting occupation-linked firms during the United Methodist Church convention earlier this year.

At the 2013 Lutheran gathering, the only amendment that introduced an investment screen targeting the occupation failed by a 70 percent margin.

“The surprising story here is that there has been a massive shift in the stance of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on the occupation in only three short years – 70 percent opposed to economic tools to end the occupation, versus 90 percent in favor today,” Loepp said. “Though these are three years that I’m sure seem like two eternities to Palestinians.”

Abuse of privilege exposed

At this year’s assembly, Loepp observed no such visible organized opposition.

At the same time, grassroots organizers from the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation joined Isaiah 58 and allies from the Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA), American Friends Service Committee, Friends of Sabeel North America, New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee and Jewish Voice for Peace to support the resolutions.

Yet the same obstructionist strategies were employed by a number of bishops who had actively opposed divestment efforts three years ago.

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Unitarian Majority for Divestment; Presbyterians Take it to the Next Level!

Anna Baltzer, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, June 25th, 2016

I cannot remember a more significant day in church activism for Palestinian rights than the past 24 hours.

The largest gathering of UUs in the country just voted on whether to endorse the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA)’s recent divestment from companies complicit in the Israeli occupation. The general assembly achieved a simple majority while falling short of the two thirds needed for passage.

Delegate reads testimony from FOSNA citing the lack of Palestinian voices on stage.

We congratulate member group Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East (UUJME), which led a dynamic campaign, building the momentum and leverage to achieve actual divestment more quickly than any other denomination has!

Just last night, the Presbyterian Church (USA) passed a series of powerful overtures by a landslide with the strong leadership of member organization Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Overtures included: 

  1. Committing the church to prayerfully consider the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) and engage with its writers; 
  2. Calling on Re/MAX, which sells homes in illegal settlements, to follow through on a new promise it made in a recent letter to the church to stop profiting from settlement sales
  3. Calling on Israel to end its gross mistreatment of Palestinian children and on the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the U.S. Senate to take active steps toward that end.
  4. Urging the IRS to investigate and possible revoke the tax-exempt status of organizations supporting Israeli settlements; 
  5. Asking the U.S. government to enforce laws requiring correct labeling of place of production of Israeli settlement goods; 
  6. Urging Congress to hold hearings into the use of U.S. military and police equipment by the government of Israel; 
  7. Recommending that the Presbyterian Foundation and Board of Pensions refrain from investments that support violence against Israelis or Palestinians.

US Campaign Steering Committee member Sydney Levy.

Supporters of Israel’s discriminatory policies tried repeatedly to introduce amendments and resolutions maligning BDS at the Presbyterian assembly. They even brought forth a resolution specifically calling on the church to distance itself from the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation because of our significant role in advancing BDS nationwide. The Presbyterian commissioners soundly rejected every one of these attempts, electing instead for Presbyterians to consider the Palestinian BDS call for themselves

US Campaign staff and Steering Committee members were proud to be on the ground supporting both of these tremendous efforts with testimonies and strategic support, along with the significant and powerful contributions of member groups Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace, Jewish Voice for Peace, American Friends Service Committee, and Friends of Sabeel-North America (FOSNA).

Waiting for the vote at the UU Assembly

Unintimidated by today’s climate of repression targeting activism for Palestinian rights, the Presbyterian and UU churches are marching steadily ahead, alongside the many other denominations and religious organizations that have already taken economic actions including the United Methodist Church, United Church of Christ, Quakers, Mennonite Central Committee, Conference of Major Superiors of Men, and the Alliance of Baptists

Two years ago, Presbyterians passed divestment by a razor thin margin of just 7 votes. This year, they moved boldly forward with huge majority votes on further strong measures. Meanwhile, the Unitarians achieved a majority on their first attempt at divestment (remember, the Presbyterians took 10 years!)

It is clear that we are in a new moment, and that we have much work ahead of us. We are honored to have you by our side during these historic moments in the struggle for freedom and justice in Palestine.

April 7, 2016
Linda Sarsour on Racial Justice & Interfaith Cooperation

 

7:00 – 9:00 pm
The Crossing
1127 University Ave.
Madison, WI

Linda Sarsour is a working woman, racial justice and civil rights activist, every Islamophobe’s worst nightmare, and mother of three. Ambitious, outspoken and independent, Linda shatters stereotypes of Muslim women while also treasuring her religious and ethnic heritage. She is a Palestinian Muslim American and a self-proclaimed “pure New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn!”

She is the Executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York and co-founder of the first Muslim online organizing platform, MPOWER Change.
Linda has been at the forefront of major civil rights campaigns including calling for an end to unwarranted surveillance of New York’s Muslim communities and ending police policies like stop and frisk. In wake of the police murder of Mike Brown, she co-founded Muslims for Ferguson to build solidarity amongst American Muslim communities and encourage work against police brutality. She is a member of the Justice League NYC, a leading NYC force of activists, formerly incarcerated individuals, and artists working to reform the New York Police Department and the criminal justice system.

The lecture is sponsored by The Crossing Ingraham Fund in collaboration with UW-Madison Students for Justice in Palestine.

Questions, please contact:
Rev. J. Manny Santiago, Executive Director
The Crossing
1127 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53715
(608) 257-1039 ext. 1
(608) 255-1134 fax
manny at crossingministries.org