Izdat Said Qadoos, a poor Palestinian villager, probably said it well: “[Born-again Christian evangelicals] are filled with ideas that this is the Promised Land and their duty is to help the Jews. It is not the Promised Land. It is our land.”
Qadoos’ sentiments resonate with the misery and hardship faced by many displaced Palestinians.
In response to Palestinian marginalization, Christian Palestinians created a grass-roots movement rooted in the Jesus narrative to deal with their dispossession and disenfranchisement.
Palestinians living on a land occupied by others relate to a Jesus who also lived on occupied land.
Using Jesus as a model, they seek reconciliation and a just peace through a two-state solution that guarantees Israel’s security and Palestinian self-determination.
For a two-state reconciliation to occur, Palestinians must recognize the Holocaust and Israel’s right to exist, while Israel must acknowledge the oppression they inflict on Palestinians and work toward the abolishment of its own nuclear arsenal.
A leading Palestinian liberation theologian is Naim S. Ateek, an Anglican priest and founder of the Sabeel Center in Jerusalem.
Arabic for “the way,” Sabeel is an ecumenical organization that seeks to promote unity among Palestinians through social action based on love, justice, peace and nonviolence.
Before these Palestinians can advocate for a liberation theology, there must first be a liberation of theology.
For these reasons, a de-Zionization of the Bible is needed. For example, rejecting the exclusive notion of a chosen people, a theological call is made that before God there is no Jew or Gentile.
Hence, all are equal with no one group holding special claims to a promised land, especially when the land was already occupied whether by the Canaanites in biblical times or the Palestinians today.
One of the leading Jewish liberationist thinkers, Marc Ellis, is also concerned with the Palestinian issue.
Ellis’ work moves the Jewish discourse beyond the survival narratives (while remaining informed by these narratives) of the biblical Exodus and the 20th-century Holocaust to deal with the ethical concerns presently facing Jews.
Specifically, he is concerned with the expansionism demonstrated by the state of Israel.
While Jewish empowerment to prevent another holocaust is important, it can neither override injustice nor be achieved at the expense of another community. The oppressed cannot become the new oppressors.
Suffering of Jews during the Holocaust resonates with other marginalized and disenfranchised communities today throughout the world, providing an opportunity to develop a more inclusive approach to theology.
Faithfulness to Judaism requires creating a world where no group suffers oppression as did the Jews, especially at the hands of Jews.
Hence, Jewish identity since the holocaust cannot be equated with Zionism. Like any other religion, Judaism cannot be used to justify oppressive structures.
The misuse of power by the state of Israel toward the Palestinians betrays previous Jewish suffering and oppression. A call for a theology of solidarity to replace a theology of the Holocaust is therefore advocated.
True Jewish identity is found through solidarity with the oppressed of the land, be they Jews during the Holocaust or Palestinians today.
Aggravating the plight of the Palestinians is how U.S. Christian Zionism misuses the Bible to provide theological justification for the displacement of Palestinians due to some eschatological belief.
Regardless of what action the state of Israel takes, regardless of how unjust it may be, Christian Zionists normatively view it as totally positive.
The unquestioning marshaling of resources for Israel by these mainly conservative and evangelical Christians is directly responsible for the forced exile and continuous oppression of Palestinians.
Those of us who are Christian do a disservice to the Prince of Peace when we allow a theological-political ideology to bring death and oppression to Palestinians based on an unwavering and unquestioning support for a secular state’s quest for territorial expansion.
Miguel A. De La Torre is professor of Social Ethics and Latinx Studies at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado.