Thursday, November 21, 2013

Stephen Sizer, Mitri Raheb, the Israel/Palestine Mission Network & the legitimacy of contemporary Jews

The idea that the Jewish people today have no connection to the ancient Israelites is a type of anti-Semitism and it has been used in both the 20th and 21st century to tear the Jews away from their history and their sacred texts. It is an idea meant to destroy the very identity of the contemporary Jewish community. Using that idea in advocacy negates any attempt by any person or organization to promote the Boycott, Divestment or Sanction movement against Israel since it uses a classical anti-Semitic argument to discredit not Israel but contemporary Jewish people. As a matter of fact it  negates any serious discussion about problems in the Middle East. 

I am writing about two people and one organization who are advocating for the BDS movement and who use the “not Abraham’s physical descendants” idea. They all move in the same circles and promote the same lie. All of their other advocacy is discredited by their use of this kind of anti-Semitism. 

The first person is Stephen Sizer who I have written about before. Sizer is a British Anglican priest who blogs, and speaks at various conferences and churches. He has also spoken on Iran's Press TV. Just recently Sizer debated Dr. Michael Brown a messianic Jew and a Christian Zionist. Here are the two statements he made which show that he holds the idea that contemporary Jews are not connected to ancient Israel.

“Dr Brown is equating Israel in the Old Testament, with a racial group that we would identify today as the Jewish people and I think that this is incorrect.”

In another section of the debate, Sizer states:

“The term Jew in the Old Testament does not mean racially descended from Abraham; just give you one example, Esther 8 verse 17. After the glorious deliverance of God's people out of the hands of those who want to destroy the Jewish people verse 17 says many other nations became Jews out of fear of the Jews; recognizing what God was doing. So at the time of Esther the Jewish people were made up of many nationalities and I would suggest from that verse that those who could trace heir physical descent back to Abraham were already minority within the Jewish people so its not surprising when we get to the New Testament in Romans chapter two and Romans chapter 9 that Paul defines Jew in spiritual terms and he defines Israel in spiritual terms.”

First, Sizer has exaggerated the actions in the Esther text; it does not state that many nations became Jewish, rather it states that “many among the peoples of the land became Jews, for the dread of the Jews had fallen on them.” Furthermore, although it is doubtful that gentiles who converted to Judaism out numbered those who were Jewish by birth, nonetheless, they joined the people of Israel and would them be considered Israelites so one can say they belong to those who are the descendants of Abraham.

Referring to chapter 2 and 9 of Romans, Sizer is attempting to change the subject. When he speaks of the Israelites in Esther's time he attempts to use physical events to prove that most of those called Jews or Israelites during that time were not descendents of Abraham. When he moves to Romans he tries to use his conjured up ideas about a Jewish minority to fit with Paul's statement that “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh, but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that which is of the heart, ...” (Romans 2:28) and Paul's statement that “...they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendents ...” (6b-7a) The truth is, in Romans, Paul is doing two things, as far as the Israelites are concerned.

Paul is describing the actual physical people, the Jews, writing of his desire for their salvation and then he is including the gentiles among that greater spiritual Israel (made up of both Jews and gentiles) that the New Testament sees as the church. But in doing this he has not made some historical notation that suggests that most of the ethnic group, the Jewish people, were at that time not physical descendents of Abraham. If one reads the first five verses of chapter nine it is very clear that Paul recognizes a real people called the Jews who are his kinsman.

The next person is Rev. Mitri Raheb of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethlehem.

I have also written about him and my posting included his statements made at what is called the Checkpoint Conference. That is a Christian Palestinian conference which mainly attempts to draw in American Evangelical Christians to speak for Palestinians. While there have been some good speakers at the conference, it seems that Sizer is always a speaker. And Raheb spoke, at least, at the first conference. This is where he stated:
I’m sure if we were to do a DNA test between David, who was a Bethlehemite, and Jesus, born in Bethlehem, and Mitri, born just across the street from where Jesus was born, I’m sure the DNA will show that there is a trace. While, if you put King David, Jesus and Netanyahu, you will get nothing, because Netanyahu comes from an East European tribe who converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages.
 As I pointed out in the posting on Raheb:

“Raheb is referring to the Khazars when he writes of an East European tribe that converted to Judaism in the middle ages. And there was such a tribe that did convert. In fact the European Jews were proud that a whole tribe had converted to Judaism. But that does not make every Jew living in Diaspora a member of the Khazars.

All anti-Semites use the Khazars as a means of insisting that the Jews are not the Jews. Some white Americans who belong to anti-Semitic groups related to the KKK use the Khazars to insist that the supposedly 10 lost tribes of Israel are the Caucasian peoples of Europe and the United States. Those groups are referred to as “Christian Identity.” Raheb uses the Khazars to insist the Palestinians are the only peoples, plus a few Jews, who have a legal right to the Holy Land.”

The organization which uses the idea that contemporary Jews are not connected to the ancient Israelites is the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

I wrote about this several years ago. The IPMN published a booklet entitled Steadfast Hope which contained the idea. The booklet is always advertized on their front web page. Here is the quote:
“The founding narrative of the State of Israel links the modern-day Jews’ claim to the land of Israel/Palestine to their direct genealogical descent from the ancient Israelites. Recent anthropological scholarship shows that this widespread belief is very likely a myth, not historical fact. Shlomo Sand an expert on European history at the university of Tel Aviv, and author of When and How Was the Jewish People Invented? posits that the Jews were never exiled en masse from the Holy Land and that many European Jewish populations converted to the faith centuries later. Thus, he argues, many of today’s Israelis who emigrated from Europe after World War II have little or no genealogical connection to the ancient land of Israel.”

Sand has been discredited by other historians, but the point here is that all three of these entities, two persons and a PC (U.S.A.) organization have used this anti-Semitic idea to discredit Israel and in doing so they are actually attacking the Jewish community. As I stated above they are tearing away the Jewish identity and disconnecting them from their sacred text.

To listen to any information Sizer, Rehab or IPMN provide concerning the BDS movement is foolish. The IPMN will attend the next P C (U.S.A.) General Assembly in Detroit, they will fill the committee room that debates the Middle East issues. And they will do this with their preconceived idea that the European Jews that escaped Hitler and made a new home in Israel have no connection to that land or its ancient people. They will not tell the commissioners that is what they believe but it is written in their material. And it is one of their reasons for pushing divestment overtures.

There is a better way. Ignore Stephen Sizer, ignore Mitri Rehab, ignore the IPMN. Recognize the history of the Jews and their sacred text. Care for both the Palestinians and the Israelis—love them as peoples and bless them with positive investment and hopefully with peace.

Picture Wikipedia Commons

1 comment:

James Sundquist said...

Dear Viola,

I enjoyed and commend your for your article about Stephen Sizer.

He is still very bad news.

Here is the latest expose on him.

I posted an article about him on our website. But because your site only allows 4,098 characters, I would be happy to email you that expose and the one on THE STONES CRY OUT.


James Sundquist