I’m concerned, as a Palestinian Christian, about the expressly stated view that Christian teaching requires Christians today to take specific political positions regarding Zionism, the modern state of Israel and its conflict with Arabs and Palestinians.
I shared four considerations previously and offer five more here.
5. The Zionist movement realized early on that creating a Jewish state could not be obtained by agreement with the local Palestinian non-Jewish population, and it must, therefore, be done by force of arms, and that the new state would be required to constantly face and overcome with military power such Arab resistance.
Zionists realize that their dream depends on constant and continuing military dominance and denial of rights to Palestinians, both Christian and Muslim.
As a Palestinian Christian, does this commit me to support a constant militarism and violence against my own people whose displacement (literally) was a requirement for the creation of the state of Israel?
6. The creation of a Jewish state that serves the interest of Jews (as opposed to the interests of all its own citizens) and requires structural, organic discrimination against non-Jews who are within its borders, including citizens of Israel (22 percent of its population).
This is not to mention the millions of others in the West Bank and Gaza who are under its rule and control, but who are not citizens.
Does the Christian position require that I accept and support such discrimination and disenfranchisement in perpetuity?
While everyone recognizes these days the evil of the sin of anti-Semitism, and discrimination against Jews in many countries, culminating in the Holocaust, must I as a Christian be silent when Israel systematically discriminates against non-Jews, including myself, and my fellow countrymen?
Are we now the new Amalek (1 Samuel 15) who need to be obliterated and ethnically cleansed to make room for the chosen people? Is my own status in Christ totally irrelevant to the national and ethnic needs of Zionism?
7. Public land and public institutions in Israel are constitutionally used to serve and support “Jewish” interests and openly discriminate against non-Jews, including those who are Israeli citizens.
This is the essence of a Jewish state, and the very heart of Zionism.
Private land is also systematically taken from my people, declared to be public, and as befitting a Jewish state, is used to serve the Jews, whether local or new immigrants.
Non-Jews are barred from owning, renting or living on such “Jewish land” (read the Constitution of the Jewish National Fund, which acquires and holds land on behalf of Jews everywhere).
Some of this land belonged to my family and to other Christian Palestinians as well as Muslim Palestinians.
Should I welcome and support such takeover of our lands and such discriminatory use of the land and public institutions? Or should I fight for equality and equal access to public institutions in Israel?
And on what basis can I do so, if God promised and mandated that Jews have priority and “rights” to the land?
8. In the territories occupied in the Six Day War, Israel has made no pretense of granting political or other rights to Palestinians and has used a variety of methods to take land and water rights and to put them exclusively at the disposal of Jewish settlers.
They have also created a totally separate system of governance for these Jewish settlers separate from Palestinian Arabs, including myself and my family and friends.
Jewish settlers not only are given our land and generous subsidies and services, they also live in and control separate areas where we cannot enter without permits; a separate road system; separate judicial, police, health, educational, social welfare and residency systems.
The world considers all these activities a form of apartheid, and illegal under international law, but should we, as a Christians, demur?
Should we support such inequalities and injustices at the expense of Palestinians’ rights because these actions are Zionist, and Zionism is the biblically mandated position?
9. I happen to be a pacifist and understand Jesus’ teaching as prohibiting me from killing my enemies.
Even those Christians who justify war and violence in national conflicts and wars still recognize war to be bad and peace to be a Christian virtue.
Yet, in the Middle East today, peace, if it is to come at all, will require major concessions by both sides, including abandonment of the apartheid system of settlements and abandonment of “Jewish sovereignty” over all or most of the territories occupied in 1967.
But if these territories were biblically mandated and promised to Jews as Christian Zionists proclaim, then should we as Christians work hard to oppose any peace or peace negotiations and insist on maximalist positions by Israel requiring it to keep all the land of Israel and keep its non-Jewish population disenfranchised?
That seems the logical consequence of Christian Zionism. Indeed, Christian Zionists like John Hagee were scandalized that Israel “withdrew” from Gaza and that it would consider withdrawing from any of the occupied territories.
What does this do to Christian teachings about being a peacemaker? “Blessed are peacemakers for they shall be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). Can it really be that God wants us as Christians to be actively opposed to peace and peacemaking under these conditions?
In concrete political terms, Christian Zionists seem if anything to be eager for Armageddon, rather than seeking peace, let alone justice.
I bring these points in a humble spirit of openness and learning. I am open to anyone who wants to dispute these views or offer new perspectives that would make sense, spiritually as well politically, to Palestinian Christians and be relevant to the current situation.
Jonathan Kuttab is an international human rights lawyer. He is the co-founder of Nonviolence International and Al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights organization, and serves on the Bethlehem Bible College board of trustees. A version of this article first appeared on Come and See and is used with permission.
Editor’s note: This is the second part of a two-part series. Part one is available here.