I sometimes come across Christians with a distorted view of the Middle East. Blindly supporting Israel, they fail to see that oppressive and expansionist Zionist policies have led to much misery and suffering among Palestinians, who live in dehumanising conditions whether in Gaza or the West Bank or as refugees in neighbouring countries.
This is an excerpt from a piece I wrote last August for the Herald in Malaysia:
To be anti-Semitic (anti-Jew) is to be bigoted and racist. To be anti-Zionist, on the other hand, is to legitimately oppose a political and ideological movement that reflects a sense of Western European ethnic supremacy and domination in the Middle East.
Unfortunately, some people – including Christians who misguidedly support the Zionist movement – sometimes accuse critics of Zionist ideology of being anti-Semitic.
These Christians invariably subscribe to ‘Christian Zionism’, a modern theological and political movement that embraces the most extreme ideological positions of Zionism. Such extreme positions place further obstacles to the possibility of achieving a just peace between Israel and Palestine.
The Christian Zionist worldview sees the Gospel through the lens of empire and colonialism instead of through the prism of the love, compassion and justice of Christ. Christian Zionists therefore place heavy emphasis on apocalyptic events, military might and the end times, which they believe will lead to an almighty showdown at Armageddon. For them, the state of Israel can do no wrong, no matter how patently brutal, colonialist or racist their policies may be.
The bishops of the various denominations in Jerusalem have roundly criticised these misguided Christians and their beliefs. “We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation,” said the Patriarch and Local Heads of Churches in Jerusalem in a joint statement on 22 August 2006.
The “Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism” was signed by Michel Sabbah, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem; Swerios Malki Mourad, the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem; Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal of the Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East; and Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.
“We further reject the contemporary alliance of Christian Zionist leaders and organisations with elements in the governments of Israel and the United States that are presently imposing their unilateral pre-emptive borders and domination over Palestine,” the Patriach and bishops added. This, they said, inevitably leads to unending cycles of violence that undermine the security of all peoples of the Middle East and the rest of the world.