Monday, October 28, 2013

Israel and Evangelical Christians. By Peter Wehner.

Israel and Evangelical Christians. By Peter Wehner. Commentary, October 28, 2013.

Evangelicals and Israel: What American Jews Don’t Want to Know (but Need to). By Robert W. Nicholson. Mosaic, October 2013.


Robert W. Nicholson has written a fascinating essay for Mosaic magazine titled “Evangelicals and Israel: What American Jews Don’t Want to Know (but Need to).” That essay, in turn, has generated commentaries by Wilfred McClay, Elliott Abrams, Gertrude Himmelfarb, and James Nuechterlein. Each of them has a somewhat different take on what Nicholson wrote; all are worth reading.
The Nicholson essay explores the explanation for Christian Zionism, locating it in eschatology for some Christians while in God’s eternal covenant with Israel for others. Mr. Nicholson argues that many evangelicals feel not only a strong sense of protectiveness toward the State of Israel but a deep cultural affinity with the Jewish people. But he also highlights the growing strength among evangelicals of what he calls a “new anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian movement.”
The latter is something I can testify to first-hand. Several years ago my wife and I left a Washington D.C. church we were members of over what I came to discover was a deep, though previously hidden-from-view, hostility to Israel. The more I probed the matter, the more disturbing it was, to the point that I didn’t feel we could continue to worship there in good conscience. So we left, despite two of our children having been baptized there and despite having developed strong attachments to the church and many of its congregants over the years.
Mr. Nicholson does an excellent job explaining the rise of pro-Palestinian sentiment among some segments of American evangelicalism. The basis for this movement rests in part on the belief that Israel is a nation whose very founding in 1947 was illegitimate and immoral; since then, it is said, Israel has become an enemy of justice and peace. Authentic Christianity therefore requires one to embrace the pro-Palestinian narrative, or so this line of argument goes. “The bottom line is simply this,” writes Nicholson. “More and more evangelicals are being educated to accept the pro-Palestinian narrative – on the basis of their Christian faith.”
As for my own attitudes toward the Jewish state, I find myself closely aligned to the view of Nuechterlein. “In the present instance,” he writes, “one need not depend on biblical prophecy or covenantal theology to find reasons to support the state of Israel.”
Israel has the only truly democratic political culture in the Middle East. It is a friend of the West in politics and political economy, and, more important, a consistent and unswerving ally of the United States. It is a regional bulwark against the radical Islamists who are its and America’s sworn enemies. The more I see of the populist Arab spring, the stronger is my commitment to Israel. I support Israel not because I am a Christian—though nothing in my Christian beliefs would preclude that support—but because that support coincides with the requirements of justice and the defense of the American national interest.
That strikes me as quite right. In a region filled with despots and massive violations of human rights, Israel is the great, shining exception. Indeed, based on the evidence all around us, it is clear that Israel, more than any nation on earth, is held not simply to a double standard but to an impossible standard. Its own sacrifices for peace, which exceed those of any other country, are constantly overlooked even as the brutal acts of its enemies are excused. (I offer a very brief historical account of things here.)
Israel is far from perfect—but it is, in the totality of its acts, among the most estimable and impressive nations in human history. Its achievements and moral accomplishments are staggering—which is why, in my judgment, evangelical Christians should keep faith with the Jewish state. Set aside for now one’s view about the end times and God’s covenantal relationship with Israel. Israel warrants support based on the here and now; on what it stands for and what it stands against and what its enemies stand for and against; and for reasons of simple justice. What is required to counteract the anti-Israel narrative and propaganda campaign is a large-scale effort at education, not simply with dry facts but in a manner that tells a remarkable and moving story. That captures the moral imagination of evangelicals, most especially young evangelicals.
I’m sure some evangelical Christians would appreciate it if more American Jews showed more gratitude toward them for their support of Israel over the years. But frankly that matters very little to me, and here’s why: What ought to decide where one falls in this debate on Israel are not the shadows but the sunlight. On seeing history for what it is rather than committing a gross disfigurement of it. And on aligning one’s views, as best as one can, with truth and facts, starting with this one: The problem isn’t with Israel’s unwillingness to negotiate or even any dispute over territory (Israel has repeatedly proved it is willing to part with land for real peace); it is with the Palestinians’ unwillingness to make their own inner peace with the existence of a Jewish state.
The suffering the Palestinian people (including Palestinian Christians) are enduring is real and ought to move one’s heart. Many Palestinians suffer from circumstances they didn’t create. And so sympathy for their plight is natural. But these circumstances they suffer under are fundamentally a creation not of Israel but of failed Palestinian leadership, which has so often been characterized by corruption and malevolence. Checkpoints and walls exist for a reason, as a response to Palestinian aggressions. Nor has anyone yet emerged among the Palestinian leadership who is either willing or able to alter a civic culture that foments an abhorrence of Jews and longs for the eradication of Israel. That is the sine qua non for progress.
To my coreligionists I would simply point out an unpleasant truth: hatred for Israel is a burning fire throughout the world. Those of the Christian faith ought to be working to douse the flames rather than to intensify them.

Palestinian Terms Leave Little to Talk About. By Jonathan S. Tobin.

Palestinian Terms Leave Little to Talk About. By Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, October 27, 2013.

Are Settlements Really Hurting Israel? By Moshe Dann.

Are Settlements Really Hurting Israel? By Moshe Dann. Real Clear World, October 28, 2013. Also at the Jerusalem Post.

The Frontier in Israeli History. By Moshe Dann. NJBR, June 28, 2013. With related articles.

Nine common myths about Israel. By Moshe Dann. Jerusalem Post, January 16, 2013.

Who wants a Palestinian state? By Moshe Dann. Jerusalem Post, November 26, 2012.

The imperative of Jewish sovereignty. By Moshe Dann. Jerusalem Post, April 7, 2011.

The Palestinian Ideology Ignores Reality. By Michael Curtis.

The Palestinian Ideology Ignores Reality. By Michael Curtis. American Thinker, October 27, 2013.


Among ideology, a fundamental belief system, and recognition of reality, there has always been a huge intellectual gap.  History is full of instances when all too many people have refused to recognize the disastrous consequences of adhering to an ideology, usually based on myth, regardless of a reality that contradicts their firm beliefs.  The key problem is that individuals espousing some ideological point of view may have invested so much emotional attachment to it that they not only abandon objectivity, but also are incapable of renouncing a viewpoint, a myth, or a false political religion that has been discredited or may be irrelevant.  They do not want to disavow the part of themselves that has accepted falsity.
This is now true of the ideological believers in the Palestinian narrative of victimhood.  Almost everyone recognizes the mistakes of “true believers” in refusing to admit the horrors of the Stalinist era in the Soviet Union and the Mao Zedong years in China.  Supporters of and apologists for those regimes persisted in ignoring the reality that they were totalitarian, savagely cruel, responsible for systematic terror, and engaged in the slaughter of tens of millions of their innocent citizens held to be enemies.
Adherence to the ideology of Communism meant both condoning the horrors and cruelty as inevitable and refusing to accept any possible compromise or qualification of that ideology.  Nor could adherents accept that this ideological view, though partly rational, was largely a myth, albeit one capable of mobilizing people.
Today, that mixture of reason and myth is present in a Palestinian ideology of victimhood, an ideology that seeks to mobilize political support by insistence that Palestinians are being persecuted by Israel, a state that must be rejected.  Supporters of the Palestinian cause can argue as part of that ideology for Israeli withdrawal from disputed or occupied territory captured in 1967, for the establishment of a Palestinian state, and for a solution to the Palestinian refugee question by a Palestinian right of return.
But the ideology departs from objectivity in referring to Israel as a colonial power from which Palestinians must be liberated.  That power is said to oppress Palestinians and to engage in terror against them.  The reality is that it is Palestinian terrorism that has accounted for the murder of more than 1,500 Israelis over the last twenty years.
The ideologists may raise legitimate points about the settlements built since 1967 in the West Bank.  Yet it serves no purpose to argue that these settlements are the main obstacle to peace negotiations.  Nor is it reasonable to argue that Israeli policy has been unchanging and inflexible, that it is unremittingly oppressive, and that it is based on the argument that “Between the sea and the Jordan River there will be only Israeli sovereignty.”  It is true that this argument was made by a relatively small group among the Likud party in 1977.  But it is not the policy of Israeli governments, as has been shown by the various offers of a compromise solution on territory shown by Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000, and by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008.
The Palestinian ideology has formulated the concept of Nakba, catastrophe, resulting from the Arab defeat in their war against Israel in 1948-49.  Left unsaid is the crucial reality that it was Arab armies that had invaded Israel on its creation and caused the catastrophe.  The Palestinian state, because of Arab refusal, never came into existence 66 years ago, as proposed by the UNGA resolution of November 1947, but the refugee problem did.  Moreover, it was the threat reiterated by President Nasser among others to eliminate the Jewish State of Israel and his actions producing a casus belli that led to the 1967 war and the capture of Arab territory – the now disputed West Bank and East Jerusalem.  It was this threat and consequent actions that have prevented a Palestinian state from being established.
The Palestinian ideology and activists on behalf of that ideology or apologists for Palestinian terrorism refuse to recognize benefits that arise from employment of Palestinians by Israeli enterprises.  Rather, they insist on the self-defeating policy of boycott, divestment, and sanctions in so many areas of life against Israel.  Or they maintain the image of Israeli/Jewish conspiracy eager to rule over an oppressed people.
Even more, the ideologists refuse to recognize both the security problem of Israel and the reality of the continuing attacks by Hamas from Gaza and Hezb’allah from Lebanon on Israeli civilians.  Rather, they concentrate on a number of issues: an uncompromising view of territory in the area; a solution of the refugee problem that would eliminate the Jewish State of Israel; the insistence on Jerusalem as a capital of any Palestinian state; and anti-imperialism, which means hostility towards the United States as well as Israel.  Hatred and venom are more noticeable in these arguments than are overtures of conciliation.
No conciliation is likely if the starting premise of Palestinian ideology is insistence on a state that must consist of the whole area of Palestine as defined in the British Mandate, thus eliminating the existing State of Israel.  Equally, the Palestinian refugee problem remains unresolved if Palestinians, and previously other Arabs who also used it as a propaganda device, persist in holding that all refugees, and now their descendants including grandchildren, have the right to return to places where they lived before the war in 1948, and most of which no longer exist.  The demographic impact of this would clearly mean the end of the Jewish State of Israel.
The issue of the future of Jerusalem is also related to the fallacious Palestinian ideological narrative of victimhood.  This asserts that Jews have no historic right to any area of Mandated Palestine, since they lived there for only a short time, if at all.  This assertion means there is no connection between Jews and their ancient homeland and their historic holy places.  Rather, the ideology identifies “Palestinians” with the Canaanites of several thousand years ago and asserts that because there have been Islamist conquests of the area since the 7th century, they are another Islamic group having a right to the land.  In this absurd distortion of history, Israel has no legal right to Jerusalem or anywhere else in Palestine.
The Palestinian ideology has incorporated what is now the politically correct mantra of opposition to colonialism and imperialism.  Not only is Palestinian self-determination an end in itself, but it also implies the end of Israeli colonization.  An ideology of this kind can hardly be the basis of peace negotiations when it, above all in the version of Hamas and other radical Islamists, calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.  Nor can it be useful if Palestinians insist on preconditions or concessions by Israel before any negotiations start.
If Berlin and Vienna are trying, with considerable success, to come to terms with their infamous past of Nazism, why can’t Palestinians do the same in recognition of the Jewish past in Palestine?  That recognition is not near at hand.  Instead, Hamas’s answer is building a very large, well-constructed, and sophisticated tunnel from Khan Younis in the south part of the Gaza Strip into Israel in order to attack civilians in Israeli border towns and villages.  Hamas, the Islamist expression of Palestinian ideology, prefers to waste resources of its subjects and to invest in terror, not peace.