By Rev. Henk Poot A reply to the so-called Kairos document by Christians in the Netherlands, December 2009
Palestinian suffering is intense. The Christian schools in Gaza are targets for bomb attacks and in 2007 the director of the only Christian bookshop was murdered. The small Christian minority lives in terror and apprehension.
Jews in Israel point out to us that Christian brothers and sisters in Samaria are threatened, vineyards damaged and people intimidated. In what used to be Christian Bethlehem, there is immense oppression. Christians are not allowed to hold public positions, and during anti-Israeli protests they are warned one day prior to liquidation. Church members are murdered and Christian women molested and raped. During the intifada terrorists who had taken over the Christian quarter, Beit Jala, carried out attacks on Gilo, in the Jewish quarter. In 2002 the occupation of the Church of the Nativity led to a drawn-out hostage drama. From the dominant minaret of the large mosque, erected opposite this most famous church of Bethlehem, Allah’s greatness is continuously being proclaimed. In the meantime, the number of Christians makes up only 10 percent of the population of the city where Christ was born. Those that remain are anxious.
Two evenings before Christmas, on the 22nd of December, a few Palestinian Christian leaders will present a document to the churches in the Netherlands. It is said to be ‘a shout of hope where no hope exists’ and points an accusing finger in the direction of Israel. The suffering of Palestinian Christians is caused by Israel. The horrific Israeli occupation is to be blamed: It is a sin and the cause of all misery. The doors of the Dom Cathedral in Utrecht have been opened for this message and many prominent Dutch persons are likely to show up.
The Palestinian Jesus?
Throughout the years, we have come to expect that Christmas, and the all-important Bethlehem, would be utilized to serve the Palestinian cause. Arafat ranted that Jesus was a Palestinian and the Palestinian theologians suggested that the Christmas story be rewritten. The Jews were to replace Herod while the Romans, Hamas and the PLO would replace Joseph and Mary.
Now we have a theological document that claims to represent the Palestinian people from across the land. It calls the rest of the (Christian) world to understand the God-given time (“kairos”) and to come into action.
There is not much new in this document. It is, in fact, a repetition of what has often been expressed from the podium of the World Council of Churches. Once again, it is full of beguiling propaganda mixed with the old replacement theory.
A distortion of the truth
A closer look at some matters mentioned in the document:
1. The Palestinians were not driven from their land by the hatred of European Jews in 1948, but by a destructive war, initiated by a majority of Arabic countries.
2. Over the many centuries, no Palestinians were present in the land. It fact, shortly before the Second World War, 28 different languages were spoken amongst the Arabic people in Palestine. The majority of current inhabitants moved to this area, in the Middle East, for understandable reasons: peace, prosperity and health. This emigration continued into 2000. It was only at the end of the sixties that a Palestinian identity developed.
3. God’s history and course with Israel did not end when Christ was born. On the contrary: Christ came as the King of the Jews, to continue this history and to confirm the coming Kingdom. The salvation is universal, but that which Jesus said: ‘For salvation is of the Jews’, remains to be true.
4. It is erroneous to strip Jesus of His Jewish identity and to remove the salvation, of the re-establishment of the kingdom, for Israel. In the period around our Saviour’s birth, the angel Gabriel referred to Him that would deliver His people from their sin, and Zechariah the priest sang about Israel that would be set free from those that hate her, and serve God without fear.
5. To say Jerusalem should be the capital city of two nations and three religions is without Biblical grounds.
6. By referring to the universal blessings, Palestinian liberation theologians make a furtive attempt to deny Israel’s connection to the land while emphasising Palestinian land claims.
7. Calling Israel an occupying force has no basis, either under international law, or in history or Biblical theology. How can a people occupy her own land? As for the claim that the resolutions of the U.N. have the final say: These are always bilateral. The Palestinian leadership now has a responsibility to recognise the existence of a Jewish state, and should end the opposition and stop demonising it.
8. Palestinian terror is by no means a reply to what the document calls Israeli occupation. The Palestinian Liberation Organization was formed prior to Israel ever entering Bethlehem and before the Jordan’s West Bank came into Israeli hands. Yes, before the state of Israel ever existed, Hebron’s Jewish inhabitants, in the towns of Gush Etzion, were attacked and killed.
9. Palestinian Christian leaders are calling for a worldwide boycott. Why, it sounds so familiar: ‘Do not buy from the Jews!’ Could it be that the descendents of Nazi and Soviet terror survivors, are doing what the world demands of them?
While Israel was providing food, water and electricity to the enemy during the war in Gaza, church leaders called for the severance of all bonds with Israel. While 925,000 children currently live below the poverty line in Israel, and we are actively supporting soup kitchens, these Christians are calling for an economic attack on Israel. Did God not say: ‘I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse’? This weapon, with which women and children are attacked, will be turned against them. Yes, maybe these church leaders will not be aware of this, but the plain and ordinary Arabic inhabitants of Israel will. Hundreds of thousands of these Israeli Arabs are employed by businesses in Israel: Tel Aviv to Samaria and the Jordan Valley.
Should churches boycott God’s people, is that the way in which Jesus should be followed? Should the Church take cognizance of all this? Or is that which the prophets foretold actually happening:
“Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, My servants shall eat, but you shall be hungry; behold, My servants shall drink, but you shall be thirsty; behold, My servants shall rejoice, but you shall be put to shame’”. (Isaiah 65)
A few persistent questions remain, such as: If Jesus the Jew was born in Bethlehem, why is it ‘unlawful for Jews’ to enter into Bethlehem?
And why did the Palestinian people not pursue a Palestinian state prior to the occupation between 1948 and 1967? After all, at that time Jordan occupied both Judea and Samaria. Why suddenly now that the Jews are back in the land?
There is one more point: Not all Palestinian Christians support this document in its entirety. Palestinian theologians who are on the leashes of Hamas and the PA back it. This show of support serves to prove their loyalty and will, they hope, prevent future aggression by their superiors. Although there is a voice claiming a Palestinian liberation theology, it is not really accepted by the majority of Arab Christians in the region.
Sadly, in leftist church circles in the Netherlands and elsewhere, this form of liberation theology is better known and loved than that which has been the basis of their own churches.
Fear! We are aware of other Palestinian Christians and would gladly invite them to the Dom Church on Christmas. Christians who, in spite of Muslim terror, continue to bless Israel and to pray for the Jewish people, without giving up their Arab identity. Brothers and sisters who love the land on which they live and, being aware of the unique position of the Jewish people, respect God’s promises. Brothers and sisters who live in peace with Israel, without shouting and yelling about brutal occupation. They who, alongside so many other Palestinians, prefer living under Israeli sovereignty than living under the dictatorship of Hamas or the corrupt PA.
These are Christians who do not remove Jesus from His people and who do not deny that God is the God of Abram Isaac and Jacob. Christians who do not spiritualise or manipulate the Bible to suit Palestinian politics, but Christians who know about the coming Kingdom and the blessings, covering all the earth, that will flow from Jerusalem. Christians who recognise what God is presently doing. That He is bringing the Jewish people back from exile after they have suffered greatly. For them it is a privilege to be part of the Body of Christ and to live in the holy land, next to the chosen people. Christians who open their doors to every Jew that knocks. We would love them to be able to speak in the churches, in the Dutch community. Yet we know, all too well, what awaits them on their return. We personally knew some of those who were murdered, dragged behind a motor vehicle through the streets of Bethlehem. And we continue to feel guilty about making them visible.
We also fully understand when Palestinian Christians choose to go the other way. If we had to endure similar repression, would we continue to condemn them? No, we do not agree with the Palestinian liberation theology. It is an illegitimate message that dominates the message of the Bible. But we do understand that people are desperately searching for ways with which to dispel the enmity.
We prefer to encourage the churches in the Netherlands not to strengthen the Palestinian Christians in their efforts to demonise Israel by malicious propaganda and lies. The Church should rather lift their hands to bless Israel and the Palestinian Christians that love them. She should stand in the gap for Christians that are suffering because of Muslim terror. In that way, the witness about truth and hope can answer their desperate crying. What a kairos it would be if the church in our country would call (no, not shout) that Jesus, the King of the Jews, was born in Bethlehem. That He will return to take His rightful place as King over Jacob and that we, as believers from the nations, will be blessed by that Kingship.
Oh, if the Church would only hear the voice of all the brothers and sisters that recognise and embrace the nation of Israel. Not only the voices in Israel, Judea and Samaria, but also those in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and, last but not least, in Bethlehem.
Christians for Israel Netherlands