Wednesday, 11 May 2016

A Palestinian Christian Speaks Her Mind

The lady is right. There is nothing Christian about Zionism. American Christians should be standing in solidarity with their Christian brothers and sisters in Palestine. The fact that more aren’t is shameful.
The United Methodist Church’s General Conference opens tomorrow in Portland, Oregon. The conference takes place every four years, and this year, as was the case in 2012, a measure calling for divestment from Israel will be up for consideration.
The divestment measure in 2012 failed by a narrow margin, but what has occurred in the years since, of course, is the Gaza destruction of 2014, in which Israel killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, including 521 children. Be that as it may, a Methodist minister has penned a shameful commentary opposing this latest divestment measure, an article in which he not only gets some of his facts wrong but also, disgracefully, fails to mention the enormous injustice done to Palestinians in 1948, the 2014 bloodletting in Gaza, or the illegal settlement construction and land grabs continuing to this day.
“Pressuring Israel will not end the occupation, because Israel is not capable of making peace unilaterally,” he asserts, implying in essence that Israeli doesn’t have “a partner for peace,” a trope which has been a standard Zionist talking point for a number of years.
Below is an article I wrote back in 2014 about a divestment measure under consideration by the Presbyterian Church at that time. It offers some insight into some of the pressure tactics that likely are being exerted against the Methodists at present.
Do They Worship Jews or Jesus?
By Richard Edmondson | June 7, 2014
Recently Israeli media published a report about a US Christian couple, Chad and Libby McJunkin, who, along with their ten children, converted to Orthodox Judaism. In doing so, they have adopted new names for themselves: instead of Chad and Libby, they now go by Shalom and Nechama, and they are even considering making “aliyah” to Israel.
I am glad the McJunkins have taken the step they have (although I do have some concerns for the McJunkin children, who apparently are being forced to adopt a new lifestyle not of their own choosing), for this is something I’ve been advocating a good while now: Christian Zionists should simply convert to Judaism.
Unlike other Christians, who worship Jesus, Christian Zionists worship Jews. Jesus is secondary, if he even figures into their thinking at all. So if their predominant object of worship, as a collective whole, is the Jewish people, then why not simply become a Jew? It makes enormous sense, especially when you consider that Judaism, stripped of all its trappings, basically is about self-worship. The theology of regarding oneself as “chosen” gives justification to a variety of crimes, including murder, land theft, and even genocide, for after all, if these things are being done by “chosen” ones, then they must have the approval of “God.”
This is the thinking of many Orthodox Jews, and it is also the thinking of Christian Zionists. In fact a quote from McJunkin sums it up rather well:
“When I came in to contact with people who told me about the Hebrew scriptures and I learned about the Torah, I realized there was a conflict between the Five Books of Moses and the New Testament,” McJunkin explained. “One was true and the other was totally false — and it’s obvious which one was false.”
In other words, McJunkin regards Old Testament narratives about conquest and genocide, and of God’s sanctioning such misconduct, to be more believable and worthwhile than the Gospel accounts of a man who came along and told Jews they should instead be loving, merciful and compassionate.
If McJunkin truly feels this way, then I say it is only right and natural for him to convert to Judaism. Moreover, it seems there is some financial incentive in it as well:
So far, the Jewish community has stepped up to help the McJunkins as they embark on their new path. People they had never met hosted their wedding, and others are contributing to a crowdsourcedwedding shower fund to assist them in purchasing new dishes, housewares, appliances, Judaica, and kosher groceries.
“There is a simple mitzvah of showing love to a convert,” said Alexander Rapaport, executive director of the Masbia food kitchen network, who organized the online fund. In the last three days, 221 people have donated $9,335 toward a $20,000 goal.
No doubt about it, $9,300 would come in handy if you’re trying to raise ten kids. And all you have to do is wear a skull cap and say, “I support Israel.”
The reason I bring up the McJunkins’ story is that another divestment-from-Israel measure will be coming up when the Presbyterian Church holds its General Assembly later this month, and as per usual, Jews are planning to descend en masse upon the convention to badger, cajole, and hector the delegates into voting it down.
And also not surprisingly, as these things go, some within the church itself are siding with them. One such individual is Christopher Leighton, and it’s tempting to reach the conclusion that people of this nature would do well to simply follow the lead of the McJunkins.
Leighton is quoted in an article on the divestment measure by the JTA, in a story identifying him as “a Presbyterian minister who is the executive director of the Institute for Jewish and Christian Studies in Baltimore.”
The gist of it is Leighton is deeply concerned this year’s divestment measure will pass (the last one, two years ago, was narrowly defeated by a vote of 333-331), and I’m inclined to believe that ministers like him are one of the main inspirations of Americans dropping out of the church and adopting atheism.
Christian conservatives often like to complain about “moral relativism,” but what could be more ethically “relative” than grappling for some sort of means of justifying what Israel is doing to the Palestinians? I can’t think of any. Yet the problem, as Leighton sees it, is that many of the delegates who’ll be attending this year’s assembly just don’t understand the “complexities” of the Middle East.
“The vast majority of Presbyterians don’t know these issues or the historical religious complexity of the region,” he said. “What they’re bombarded with is ‘Palestinians are suffering terribly. If we don’t do something about it we become complicit in an injustice.’ The arguments put forth traffic in all kinds of stereotypes that require work to undo.”
“Stereotypes”—presumably such as Israel’s abuse of Palestinian child prisoners, or its continued settlement building in contravention of international law. Yes indeed, stereotypes of this nature certainly “require work to undo,” but rest assured, Leighton will get plenty of help from his Jewish allies.
According to the JTA, “Jewish communal officials” are working furiously to “head off” the divestment measure, and a letter opposing it, “signed by more than 1,500 rabbis, cantors and seminary students of all streams of Judaism,” will be presented at the assembly. There also seem to be murmurings of veiled “consequences” the Presbyterian Church may face should the General Assembly approve the measure:
Rabbi Noam Marans, the American Jewish Committee’s director of interreligious relations, said the combined damage of the study guide and the passage of divestment overtures would likely have consequences for Jewish-Presbyterian ties, although he did not want to outline them until the assembly had finished.
The word “consequences” is also used by Dexter Van Zile, an analyst with the pro-Zionist CAMERA group, which seeks to influence media reporting on Israel, and who is quoted also in the story:
“Let the General Assembly decide and the church live with the consequences,” Van Zile said. What consequences? Again, no elaboration. But Van Zile also expresses the view that passage of the measure will amount to “a punch in the nose to the Jewish community.”
The General Assembly will take place June 14-21 in Detroit, and there are at least five separate divestment measures up for consideration. Part of what has Israel supporters so upset is the publication, earlier this year, of Zionism Unsettled, a study guide compiled by the Church’s Israel/Palestine Mission Network which analyzes the roles of Zionism and Christian Zionism in “shaping attitudes and driving historical developments in the Middle East and around the world.”
“The publication of ‘Zionism Unsettled’ by the very voices backing divestment in the PC (U.S.A.) revealed an agenda that is not about church investments,” says Ethan Felson, of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. “These backers of divestment want to return their church to a place of retrograde anti-Jewish theology, hostility to mainstream Jews and, of course, a blind eye to the responsibility of Hamas and Hezbollah on the Israel-Palestinian conflict and the steps Israelis are forced to take to defend themselves.”
Or in other words, those who support an end to Israeli occupation are terrorist sympathizers, and that will include the Presbyterian Church if it passes the divestment measure. How’s that for Zionist intimidation? And of course, by default they’re also anti-Semites—naturally.
There will also be an effort to demonstrate to the Assembly delegates that “left-leaning and dovish Jews” also oppose divestment. In fact, this is being described as “a pillar of organized Jewish pushback” on the matter, and apparently here J Street is playing a critical role.
Rachel Lerner, J Street’s senior vice president for community relations, who has made the pro-Israel case to church groups in the past, said she had decided not to attend this year’s assembly because of the time commitment. She changed her mind, however, when she read “Zionism Unsettled.”
“It portrays Zionists as pathological and racist and scarred and unable to act in any normal way,” she said. “It ran contrary to everything I think Zionism stands for. I was personally offended by it. I think it says something about the movement, where divestment is coming from and who it is coming from in the church.”
The sad part is Lerner and her fellow Zionists will get plenty of help from inside the church. The JTA makes clear that Leighton isn’t the only one.
“The stakes are very high,” says Rev. Katharine Rhodes Henderson, who also opposes divestment from Israel. She adds that “divestment today may mean full-out BDS tomorrow, and that’s the decision that Presbyterians face.”
It is of course absurd, patently so, to believe that Jesus would have countenanced the infliction of violence, the building of massive walls to divide people, the ongoing subjugation and humiliation of an entire population, along with the assassination of its culture, that are part of day-to-day life for Palestinians under occupation.
Things are changing, however. Mindless, unequivocal support for Israel is becoming, shall we say, “retrograde,” and I profoundly wish that people of this backwards persuasion would simply go—do as the McJunkins did—and convert to Judaism.
For in remaining within the church they seem to be doing their utmost to poison the Body of Christ.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
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