Thursday, September 20, 2012

Kairos Palestine, and an unlikely alliance

I was also assigned to watch and write about two videos: 60 Minutes’ segment "Christians of the Holy Land" and Bill Moyers of PBS’s segment "God and Politics in the Holy Land." Both are relatively short—I highly encourage you to watch them if able.

“Christians in the Holy Land” informs the viewer that Christians comprise less than 2% of the population in Israel/Palestine. Referring to the security and checkpoints that Palestinians have to go through, Israel’s Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, nonchalantly says that it’s “their inconvenience, our survival.” He blames Christians leaving the West Bank on Islamic extremism, while Palestinians themselves (Muslim and Christian, alike), blame it on the Israeli occupation. The video references Kairos Palestine, a document in which Palestinian Christian religious leaders criticize Islamic extremism and call for a non-violent response to Israeli occupation, which they call “a sin against God.”

Ambassador Oren says these Christian leaders go “beyond legitimate criticism…accusing us of crimes that would be very, I think, historically associated with anti-Semitism.” Oren’s statement is interesting, as he doesn’t seem to think the Jewish state capable of the same—or similar—crimes that have been perpetrated against Jews throughout history. Just because Jewish people once suffered (and suffer) the crimes of anti-Semitism does not mean Israel is somehow immune from committing similar travesties against other people.  Oren’s attitude about Kairos Palestine (it is “so inflammatory that many of us didn’t even bother responding to it”) shows a lack of commitment to dialogue and peacemaking. Without such dialogue and a genuine attempt to understand the 'other,' there is little hope for peace.
The second video, “God and Politics in the Holy Land,” describes the alliance between Jews and Christians. Christian Zionists believe that Jesus will come again only when Israel is completely in Jews’ hands. As a result, Christian Zionists are fundamentally, unswervingly opposed to (and actively work to oppose) “any peace settlement that would give any land to Palestinians.”


Frankly, I find some of the views expressed by Christian Zionists in this video to be downright frightening (and even wrote this observation—THIS IS FRIGHTENING—in my notes). I was disturbed by comments such as Tom Delay’s at the Christian Coalition of America’s gathering. In describing a recent visit to Israel/Palestine, he says: “The Jewish State is a very tiny country, and you know what, I didn’t see any occupied territory—I saw Israel!” This statement received cheers from the audience, and Delay called himself an Israeli at heart.

Regarding Jewish and Christian beliefs, Sandra, an Orthodox Jew from Cleveland who currently lives as a settler in the West Bank said, “We share a belief in a Messiah, in a Messianic age, in the fact that what we are seeing in Israel today is part of a redemption.” 

The idea that any person of faith could share this belief—that what is happening today in Israel is part of a redemption—is unthinkable to me. May we all take part in working toward a future (and a present!) that sees redemption as inseparable from peace--a peace that is characterized by equality, mutual understanding, and justice for Palestinians and Israelis--Muslims, Jews, and Christians--alike. 

“Man's greatest blunder has been in trying to make peace with the skies instead of making peace with his neighbors.” -Elbert Hubbard 

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