Correct me, LORD, but only with justice - not in your anger, lest you reduce me to nothing. Jeremiah 10:24
Are you unhappy with your denomination's stance on Israel and the Jews? Would you consider writing or E-mailing to influential people to point out their error?
Perhaps you might find some useful thoughts in my letter, which you could cut and paste into your own message.
I sent the following letter to all the people listed on the BU web site. Decade to Overcome Violence.
I was recently given a copy of your leaflet, "Building Justice Ė Seeking Peace" document, detailing your participation in the "Decade to Overcome Violence". From experience of other similar sounding campaigns, I was concerned and sought further information on your web site. The primary alarm sounded over the section on "Israel and Palestine", since I have seen so many Christian organisations mislead on this matter. One prime example is Christian Aid, so my fears were confirmed when I learned of your partnership with them.
No caring and concerned Christian could be unmoved by the suffering in the Holy Land but, sadly, many organisations are turning to the news media rather than their Bibles for understanding of events in the Middle East. Since the media has an, "if it bleeds, it leads" approach to this conflict it buys in to every lurid story coming from Palestinian sources and leads some "Christian" bodies to adopt a pro-Palestinian, anti-Jew stance. These groups are concerned about the suffering of the people who are instigating a terror campaign, but impervious to the suffering of the victims of that campaign. I should be very grateful if you would check out what I have to say and reconsider the inclusion of "Israel and Palestine" in your campaign.
The man who defines the terms controls the debate.
1 "Israel and Palestine" Israel is a nation Ė Palestine is not; neither now nor at any time in history; otherwise why is the Quartet working so hard to create a state of Palestine.
2 "The Occupied Territories" are at best, "disputed territories" and are actually Biblical Judea and Samaria Ė the heart of the "promised land" promised by GOD to the children of Israel and given to them after the Exodus.
3 "The illegal occupation of Palestine" is no such thing. See 1 above. Jordan illegally occupied the west bank area of Israel in 1948 and it was never internationally or legally recognised as theirs. Israel re-occupied it in the 1967 war, in which they were defending themselves from Arab attack. So by normal definitions of international law, Israel's position is not illegal. The Palestinians just keep saying it is until everyone believes them. The "Green Line" is not a national border; just the ceasefire line from the war. It does not define a nation of Palestine and Israel is not obliged to follow it with their security barrier.
Incidentally, Jesus was never a Palestinian; the word Palestine was only coined by the Romans in 70AD.
The world can be excused for its flawed understanding of the situation, but we have the word of God to guide us. Our God makes promises and keeps them. (Correct me if I am wrong and I will give up on Christianity) God promised Israel the land in terms of "for ever" and "until day and night cease". True; he also promised punishment and exile when the nation disobeyed, but He also promised the regathering and restoration which we witnessed in the twentieth century. The belief that God has finished with Israel and that the Church has taken over all Godís promises is what is known as Replacement Theology. This belief was the root cause of Anti-Semitism, the Inquisitions, the Pogroms, the Holocaust and the present day manifestation of Anti-Zionism.
The events surrounding the creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948 are too complex to discuss here, but were nothing short of miraculous. Israel did not invade a nation but was granted the land by the U.N. The Jews had been promised the Biblical land by the British, who held the mandate for the territory, (Balfour - 1917) but Churchill gave 72% of the promised land to the Hashemite dynasty Arabs as "Transjordan"; now Jordan. From AD 70 until the early twentieth century, the area designated as Palestine was never a nation, and it lay derelict; inhabited by just a few small Jewish and Arab communities. Todayís Palestinians are mostly Jordanian Arabs who came from Jordan after the 1948 Arab invasion or who migrated to work for the Jews who were bringing the land back to life.
There is no Palestinian language, culture, cuisine or tradition; these are all Arab. Abraham asked God to bless Ishmael (from whom the Arabs descend) and God promised he would be a great nation. God was true to his word and the Arabs have 622 times more land than Israel and abundant oil wealth. However, the little land of Canaan was promised only to the descendants of the child of promise; Isaac.
The reason for the current violence is spiritual.
Our God chose Israel as the people through whom He would bring salvation to the world. This He did in sending Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, to die for us all; Jew and Gentile. God sent out the Church (Jewish and Gentile believers) to evangelise the world until the day when Jesus would return to a re-gathered Israel. (not to an Islamic dictatorship)
This is the heart of the conflict. Satan has done everything in his power to thwart Godís purposes and prevent His promises being fulfilled. Satan has repeatedly tried to exterminate the Jews. Satan inspired Mohammed to create a false religion, which defines itself by its opposition to Christianity and holds a billion souls captive; shielded from the Gospel. Satan inspires the followers of Islam to seek to annihilate the Jews and seize their land so that Godís word will prove false and His promises empty.
I do not understand the enthusiasm with which many Christians seek to embrace the Islamistsí version of events and so despise and hate the Jews. It is so easy to prove that the Palestinian media sources blatantly lie and distort events. The death of twelve year old Mohammed Al Dura in 2000 was presented to a willing world as proof of Israeli brutality. This iconic story stirred enormous fervour and brought about the deaths many civilian Israelis, and yet analysis of the (unedited) video footage and testimony from that weekend prove that the whole thing was contrived to produce a martyr for the cause.
Western Christians are somehow unmoved by the loss of Jewish life, but incensed by Palestinian losses and the inconveniences caused by the security barrier that Israel is building to protect itself. The Israeli terror victims from the start of the Palestinian Intifada until the most important part of the security Barrier was completed, numbered nearly 1000. In context per head of population, this is equivalent to 44,000 Americans. The western world would never accept such a loss of life. Incidentally, although the quoted Palestinian death toll exceeds the Israeli losses, none of the Palestinian dead were targeted just for being Palestinian. Many died as suicide bombers or in shootouts which they instigated with the IDF, some were collateral losses caused by Palestinian terrorists operating from behind their women and children, some were brutally killed by their own people for allegedly cooperating with the Israelis and some were just victims of road traffic accidents.
I am not happy with political campaigns against sovereign states being carried out under a "Christian" banner, since Paul taught us in Romans 13, "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves." And Jesus taught that we should, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." I donít claim everything Israelís government does is right, but God has it there for His purposes. Even the Hamas (terrorist) party elected to lead the Palestinians must come under Godís purposes; even if only for judgment. (like the Babylonians)
Neither am I convinced by Christian arguments for pacifism, since while Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers", He also said he had not come to bring peace but a sword. I believe we should be praying and working towards Jesusí reign of peace, as the Jewish Messiah reigning in righteousness from Jerusalem. (see Revelation)
"I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.
Isaiah 62 v6-7
The apostle Paul explained how we gentile Christians are grafted like wild olive shoots, into God's cultivated olive tree of Israel and draw our nourishment from that root. (Romans 11)
Chuck Cohen said, "Much of the church has acted, and still acts, as though it has been grafted into a Christmas Tree - flashing its attractive lights and decorations, but unconcerned about its loss of roots and wondering why it is spiritually drying up and dying."
Which are you ?
I did not receive many replies, but the editor of the Baptist Times was kind enough to say he found the letter interesting but too long to publish. In response, I reworked the material to produce the following. (Headings by Baptist Times)
For Israel read the Bible (published on June 29th 2006)
I am concerned that, by adopting the initiative "Decade to Overcome Violence", the Baptist Union is aligning us with campaigns against Israel. (follow the links from the BUGB web site)
Christians are right to be moved by the suffering in the Holy Land but some Christian bodies turn to the media rather than the Bible for their understanding of these events. They end up campaigning for the Palestinians, who instigated a terror campaign, and against their Jewish victims.
The world can be excused for not understanding, but we have the word of God to inform us. God promised the Holy Land to the Jews "for ever" and chose them to bring salvation to the world, (through Jesus). Jesus sent out the Church (Jewish initially) to evangelise the world until the day when He would return to Jerusalem. But Satan has done everything in his power to thwart God's purposes by exterminating the Jews. Today, Satan inspires the followers of Islam to seek to annihilate the Jews and seize their land. How can Christians support this?
When I wrote to Britain's leading Baptists very few replied. Those who did respond said that policy is formed in cooperation with "our partner", Christian Aid. If you check the Christian Aid web site, you will be shocked by the political, rather than Christian, campaign and content. I urge Baptists to reconsider allowing Christian Aid to exert so much influence in this vital matter, and to check out what the Bible says.
I am aware that the above only scratches the surface of a very complex subject, so I invite your readers to visit www.wildolive.co.uk where the issues are treated in greater depth.
This produced the following responses.
A call for sense about Israel (published on July 6th 2006.)
I fear that Michael Beer (letters, June 29) is confusing God's promises to `the 'descendents of Israel', the Jews, and the modern secular state of Israel. God in His grace has preserved His chosen people, even though they have rejected their Messiah, and will continue to preserve them, to the end of time (Rom 11 etc).
I would agree with Mr Beer that all who seek to exterminate the Jews are doing Satan's work. God did not, though, promise them that they could stay in the promised land `for ever'. Rather, He warned them that if they were disobedient, He would throw them out. They were and He did.
There may be human arguments supporting Israel (such as our Arab Christian brothers and sisters have more freedom there than in Palestine.) But there are no Bible passages that would give a divine mandate to that secular state, or overrule its need to observe international law.
Revd Dr ****** ******
A call for sense about Israel ( Published July 13)
Can we have a little sense about Israel and antisemitism? Some conservatives seem to equate modern Israel with the people of God. Fuelled by the dubious exegesis of John Nelson Darby, many Christians look to the modern state of Israel as if it were in some special way God's agent - even Christ's Church.We live under the new covenant, where God's grace is not limited to a particular nation. Modern Israelis, and indeed all Jews, have the same chance of salvation (or damnation) as anyone else. God does not have a 'most favoured nation' clause in His new covenant.
Having said this, The Baptist Times is right to criticise antisemitism along with all racism. But when is someone going to say that the most antisemitic folk of all are Muslims, who seem totally unable to distinguish between religious Jews and Israelis? Compared with the continuous stream of antisemitic propaganda . that flows from Muslim sources, the antics of the far right are pretty small beer:
Israel as a state should not be beyond criticism. They have done some harsh things to the Palestinians. But Palestinians, and other Muslim fanatics, have done some very evil things to Israel
Take a leaf out of Amos' where God condemns sins of all nations.
Call me 'Mr Facing-both-ways' if you like. The truth of the matter is a bit more complicated that what can be enfolded in a quick bit of journalism.
The Revd ****** ******
Biblical truths and Israel (Published July 13)
..When I read a letter such as that from Michael Beer ('For Israel, read the Bible - June 29), something inside me runs cold. Taking his advice, I followed the links to the BUGB website and found campaigns I against violence everywhere in our world. I visited the Christian Aid website and found an organisation dedicated to fighting injustice, oppression, violence, poverty and need wherever it exists in our world. Finally, I visited Mr Beer's website. There, I found an obsession with literal biblical pseudo-science, a perverted, bigoted and deeply offensive view of Islam, and no attempt whatever to deal constructively with the travails of that deeply troubled land which some call Palestine and some call Israel.
Using Scripture to justify what any right- minded person would call evil is anathema to me and, I hope, many others. The collective punishment now being visited on the Palestinian people is outrageous, both in political and spiritual terms, and must be stopped. Likewise, the violence meted out by Palestinians against Israelis must cease. But holding up the Bible or the Koran and declaring that God is on one side or the other is no solution, serving only to inflame it further and guarantee that fundamentalists on both sides will fuel the war for generations.
I sent the following letter, which was published on 20th July.
Israel and God's plan
Thank you for publishing my letter encouraging people to use their bibles to form their own opinions on Israel.
May I address the confusion Revd Dr **** ***** perceives in my letter by saying that I am not a supporter of the secular government of Israel, but of God's purposes in Israel.
I think the viewpoint, "God warned them that if they were disobedient, He would throw them out. They were and He did." stops short of the whole message of scripture and slips into replacement theology.
The curses for disobedience are found in Deuteronomy 28 to 30 but they end with, "When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come upon you and you take them to heart wherever the LORD your God disperses you among the nations, ................... then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. ........... He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers, and you will take possession of it. ......................." We saw God accomplish the Jewsí return to the promised land in the twentieth century, albeit largely in secularism and unbelief,
The passage continues, "The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live." The LORD is well into this second part of His plan, in the midst of the tumult, which will climax with His return. God is doing amazing works of redemption and reconciliation between Jew and Arab in Israelís Messianic communities, but sadly, our media never reports the good news.
The correspondence string also included letters about an article ( published July 6th 2006 ) on the effects of Israel's attempts to release hostage, Cpl. Gilad Shalit from Gaza. One letter attacking Israel and one from Roy Thurley of CFI, who had been quoted in the article. Interestingly, the article quoted the Palestinian folk in terms of what they "said" but Roy Thurley and the Israeli Embassy in the UK were reported as having "claimed". Clearly their words were not meant to be taken seriously.
Feel free to use any of the above material, without attribution. By visiting the web site of your denomination, you might be surprised to find how many E-mail addresses are available for the leaders around the organisation.
But, if all your efforts come to nothing, should you be surprised ?
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