Anti-Semitism and Criticism of the State of IsraelBy Baruch Maoz
Christian Anti-Semitism Increasing
There is a growing evidence of a new form of anti-Semitism that is spreading in evangelical churches. This attitude masquerades as fair criticism of some of Israel's actions but, in fact, serves as a wholesale denial of Zionism as a legitimate national platform on which to establish Jewish national hopes.
Of course, Zionists are merely human and as such are inherently
sinful. But why compare Israeli response to terrorism with the defacing
of the image of God in man implied by the sending of young men and
women, carrying explosives, to immolate themselves and murder others
in coffee houses, at Passover celebrations and while traveling on
buses to work, school, play or religious ceremony?
Using one of the holiest Christian sites as a shield from Israeli counter-terrorism--and holding priests hostage while shooting at Israeli soldiers from within the church--is typical of Arafat's tactics. For 18 months, his militiamen took over homes in the Christian village of Beit Jala near Bethlehem, shooting into Israeli homes in the adjacent Israeli neighbourhood in the hope of provoking Israeli retaliation. The adoption of a fake cease-fire during which scores of shooting incidents occurred on a weekly basis, when repeated efforts to carry out bombings were foiled by the Israeli security forces, when terrorists were secreted into Israel in preparation for the next round of fighting, and when a new round of bombers were trained and prepared is but another example of Arafat's duplicity.
Rather than condemning the Palestinian Authority for using Beit Jala as a cover from which to terrorize Israeli civilians, mainline churches have cynically blamed Israel for trying to defend its citizens. By so doing, Christians have encouraged Palestinian Machiavellianism: the hope of evoking Christian outrage against Israel is one reason why the shooters chose Beit Jala in the first place, and why, in 2003, they undertook a cease fire they never intended to keep…
It Is Time to Reconsider
The Palestinians' stated goal is for a state in the West Bank and Gaza--which was Arafat's for the asking if he was willing to sign an agreement with Barak a few years ago. Instead, he has chosen to wage a war against the very existence of a Jewish state within any borders. After appointing Machmud Abbas to serve as Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, he systematically undermined Abbas' authority in order to obviate the likelihood that Abbas would succeed in negotiating an agreement with Israel. One of the means Arafat used was the promotion of a vicious terror campaign, so far culminating in the murder of a further 21 Israeli civilians and the wounding of 109.
Still, a growing number of churches continue to offer simplistic judgments. There was a uproar when Israeli soldiers fired upon Palestinian ambulances that refused to stop at checkpoints. Church leaders accused Israel of crimes against humanity, ignoring the fact that Palestinian ambulances are often used to transport terrorists and weapons. On March 27 2003, Israeli soldiers stopped an ambulance on its way to Jerusalem. They found 10 kilos of explosives hidden under a child lying on a stretcher. What did Christian critics say then? Nothing. Nothing at all.
Like any country, Israel should never be immune from criticism. In many cases it deserves firm criticism from its friends. The present conflict is brutalising both sides. But reflex criticism of Israel is stirring old and familiar anti-Semitic instincts that Christianity has strenuously sought to uproot in modern times. One stark example is the painting unveiled in a church in Scotland, which displays a crucified Jesus flanked by Roman and Israeli soldiers. Such an image deliberately plays to historical Christian accusations against Jews, paralleling the Palestinians with Jesus and Israel with the crucifiers of the saviour.
Rumour has it that there is freedom of religion in the areas controlled
by the Palestinian Authority. But Palestinian police have both jailed
and tortured more than two dozen Palestinian Pentecostals for distributing
New Testaments in West Bank villages. Their fate was completely
ignored by world church leaders. Christian outrage is reserved for
As much could and should be said of knee-jerk support of Israel which is void of moral considerations, indifferent to the hurts and hopes of the Palestinians. As Christians, we should carefully avoid both extremes, of anti-Semitism on the one hand and of an anti-Arab attitude on the other. It is worth remembering that sinners are engaging in the conflict on both sides of this horrific struggle.
Baruch Maoz, pastor of the Grace and Truth Congregation in Rishon Letzion, Israel, has written a thought-provoking article about anti-Semitism and criticism of the State of Israel in his newsletter. The article is printed with permission.