Sunday, January 26, 2014

Telling stories that hurt and destroy: A review of Zionism Unsettled

The Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church(U.S.A.) has published a study guide, with a CD, on Zionism. The study guide is entitled Zionism Unsettled and contains various subjects including religions, history, liberal theologians and evangelical Christianity, all having to do with Zionism. [1] The booklet is filled with historical statements that are so simplistic that they change historical truth and insults lobbed at both orthodox Judaism and orthodox Christianity. The identity of contemporary Jewish people,within the context of the authors' views on Zionism, is denied. Above all, historical Zionism, contemporary Zionism, and Zionism in general, are maligned and insulted.

Vilifying Zionism:  For example in section eight, the author, after quoting Dr. Mustafa Abu Sway, who explains how respectful Muslims and the Qur'an are toward other religions, writes, “Zionism, however, has not reciprocated this respect for all peoples. Instead says Abu Sway, Zionism is by nature a system of discrimination and exclusion.” (50)

Mixing religion with their views of Zionism the authors, in section five, quote Dr. Rev. Naim Ateek:
What is quite clear from a Palestinian Christian point of view … is that the emergence of the Zionist movement in the twentieth century is a retrogression of the Jewish community into the history of its very distant past, with its most elementary and primitive forms of the concept of God. Zionism has succeeded in reanimating the nationalist tradition within Judaism. Its inspiration has been drawn not from the profound thoughts of the Hebrew Scriptures, but from those portions that betray a narrow and exclusive concept of a tribal god.
Here the authors have slipped into a gnostic view of the Hebrew Bible and the Hebrew God. In a different section they tear apart the beliefs of any monotheistic believer who views the tenets of their faith as true. Of the Jewish and Christian belief that God called the Jews to be a unique people, a people chosen by God, they quote Rabbi Brant Rosen:
To put it plainly, a voice that affirms claims of theological superiority in the name of one people cannot be the voice of God. A voice that asserts God's word to humanity was vouchsafed exclusively to the children of Abraham cannot be the voice of God. A voice that looks to the messianic day in which all nations will ultimately serve the God of Israel cannot be the voice of God. (italics Rosen) (30)
 Interesting enough this is part of the ending of a section that deals with Christian views of Jews and Judaism, a section that seemingly attempts to point out where Christian antisemitism lies. But instead, carefully choosing a Rabbi to do the dirty work, it treats orthodox Judaism and other forms of Jewish religion with contempt.

And as I have stated above, orthodox Christians are judged in just the same manner. The author opines, “...many contemporary Christians choose to modify our traditional theology by saying that the life, death, and resurrection of Christ is the most complete revelation of God that we know and that we have experienced. This statement affirms the revelation of God in Christ while at the same time recognizing the limits of our knowledge and experience ...” (30) (italics and underlining authors) Those evangelical Christians who are aligning with the Israel/Palestine Mission Network should take note that this booklet undermines their faith. [2]

Leaving out the whole story: The section on political Zionism begins with different quotes which attempt to define Zionism by both its adherents and its detractors. This is the section with simplistic historical statements that change the truth of the birth of Israel and its history. The authors look at five Zionist leaders: “Theodor Herzl, Vladimir Jabotinsky, David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin, and Binyamin Netanyahu.” After writing a very short section on Herzl and his reasons for founding the Zionist movement the authors and editors of Zionism Unsettled attempt to make a case for early Zionism's detractors, those they refer to as cultural Zionists. And since many Jews in Europe were experiencing greater freedom as well as assimilating into western culture there was resistance against political Zionism.

The historical problem here is that IPMN, as they write of immigrants who came from Russia to the Holy Land, fail to mention the horrific pogroms (persecutions) that were occurring in Russia and other Eastern European states against the Jews. So something is left out. The same is true when the IPMN authors and editors write about the birth of Israel:
In November 1947 the United Nations adopted a plan to partition Palestine into areas designated for a Jewish state and an Arab state. Each state would consist of both Jewish and Arab citizens, but tragically no provision was made for an interim United Nations military force to protect the rights of the minorities during the transition. As expected war broke out between Jewish and Arab forces when Israel declared independence in May 1948.
The authors go on to insist that two months before independence, Ben-Gurion adopted the Dalet plan to expel the Palestinians from their homeland. But they leave out what occurred just after the 1947 UN mandate to partition Palestine. They leave out most of what happened after Israel declared her independence and they don't tell the truth about Ben-Gurion's plans.

According to Efrain Karsh, professor and head of the Middle East and Mediterranean studies program at Kings College, London, after the UN vote to partition Palestine, a criminal gang overtook two buses filled with Jews and killed and wounded many of them. Arab prisoners in the main Palestine jail attacked the Jewish prisoners. Karsh records that many more were harassed and some killed in various cities. He goes on:
The next day brought no respite to the violence. Shootings, stonings, stabbings, and riots continued apace. Bombs were thrown into cafes, Molotov cocktails were hurled at shops, a synagogue was set on fire. To inflame the situation further, the AHC [Arab Higher Committee] proclaimed a three-day nationwide strike to begin the following day. Arab shops, schools, and places of business were closed, and large Arab crowds were organized and incited to take to the streets to attack Jewish targets. … In a single week, from November 30 to December 7, 1947, thirty -seven Jews were killed and many more were injured. By the end of the year another 180 Jews had been murdered. [3]
 Walter Laqueur, historian and author of A History of Zionism: From the French Revolution to the Establishment of the State of Israel, also writes about the period after the partition mandate by the UN:
The next morning the Palestinian Arabs called a three-day protest strike, and Jews in all parts of the country were attacked. On that first day of rioting seven were killed and more injured; the fighting continued to the end of the mandate. The next months, as chaos engulfed Palestine were a time of crisis for the Jewish community. … The most pressing task facing the Jewish population was to strengthen its defenses, since the Arab countries had already announced that their armies would enter the country as soon as the British left. Syria was not willing to wait that long: an 'Arab Liberation Army' inside Palestine was established in February with the help of Syrian officers as well as irregulars.[4]
Laqueur's last sentence in the above paragraph is the rest of the story. Rather than the simplistic statement by IPMN's Zionism Unsettled, “As expected war broke out between Jewish and Arab forces when Israel declared independence in May 1948,” the new state, Israel, was attacked by five Arab nations. And this after continuous attacks on Jewish citizens, after the UN's positive decision for partition..

So what about Ben-Gurion and the Dalet plan which was supposedly about expelling the Palestinians?

Laqueur writing in 1972 and republishing in 2003 simply states that some insist that the Arab refugees were forced out by Jewish massacres and threats of massacres, while others insist that the refugees left because Arab leaders encouraged them to do so. Both Laqueur and Karsh, who published his research in 2010 agree that there was a massacre of the village of Dir Yassin, 254 men, women and children were killed. (Karsh puts the number at 100.) And they agree that there was retaliation by Arab forces against a convoy of Jewish doctors and nurses:
Three days later, a Jewish medical convoy on its way to the Hadassa hospital on Mount Scopus was ambushed in the streets of Jerusalem with the loss of seventy-nine doctors, nurses and students.[5]
This was a war, and an extremely bloody war at that. But, Karsh who has done extensive archival work on the question of whether there was a planned expulsion of Palestinian Arabs gives an absolute no to the idea that Ben-Gurion or any one else planned to expel the Palestinians. His notes are massive and primary rather then secondary, that is, they are not taken from an author who quotes another author's document. He writes a whole chapter on this question:
On March 18, shortly after the launch of plan D, the Jewish Agency denied any intention to expel the Arab population of the prospective Jewish state, emphasizing instead that it “considered them as citizens, safeguarded their interests and livelihood and intended that they should participate in the government provided they were not implicated in incidents or let (sic) by saboteurs. [6]
Breaking the Link: Finally there is the matter of the identity of the Jewish people. In section 9 of Zionism Unsettled, which is written by Naim Ateek, who I quoted above, there is an accusation against the Jewish immigrants to Israel which is as racist a statement as any bigot, such as David Duke, might make. It calls into question the legitimacy of the identity of many Jews. He writes:
Zionism commits theological injustice by its appeal to God, history and race. Zionism claims the right to Eretz Yisrael on the basis of Yahweh's promises to the ancient Hebrew tribes in the Torah; the age-long dream of religious Jews to return to Zion; and the erroneous claim that all Jews are racial descendants of the Israelites of biblical times. Thus, Zionism is considered “far from Christian teaching.”
Part of my ethnic heritage is English and I am well aware that may include Normans, even Vikings and perhaps a bit from the Romans. But still my English is English. The Jewish immigrants who fled to Palestine from Europe were Jewish. Only rabid anti-Semites say they are not. (It is interesting that “race” rather than “ethnicity” was used in the quote and in Zionism Unsettled.) Words do matter.

Those who read and accept the words of this booklet, Zionism Unsettled, will eventually find themselves walking down the same roads that too many racists and anti-Semites have walked. One of the historians I have used in my review, Laqueur, agrees with some concerns of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He is concerned about the settlements, the fear of strangers, the ultra orthodox, yet he writes honest history and does not insult his subject, Zionism.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) can do a better job of caring for the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not need to insult Zionism, Jews or orthodox Christians. And they can tell the truth that the 1948 War for Israel's independence was started by the Arab nations. They can admit that war is bloody—it always has been and always will be. Now is the time to dialogue and speak out for peace—it is not the time to encourage hate as this booklet does.

[1] There are nine main sections in the booklet and smaller one page sections as well as inset boxes. All larger sections give the name of one or several authors and state the section is based on their material or is a condensed and edited version. In most cases there is little way of knowing what might be an extra statement that does not belong to the original authors.

[2]Despite this disregard for orthodox beliefs, that Jesus Christ is God's complete and final salvation, the IPMN authors and editors nonetheless use Gary Burge who claims that to see two covenants, one for the Jews and one for the church, “negates biblical texts that claim salvation is through Christ alone.” (47)

[3] Efraim Karsh, Palestine Betrayed, (New Haven: Yale University Press 2010) 100-101.

[4]Walter Laqueur, A History of Zionism: From the French Revolution to the State of Israel, paperback reprint, With a new preface, (New York: Shocken Books 1972-2003) 582-583.

[5]See Laqueur, Zionism, 584; and Karsh, Palestine, 122.

[6] Karsh, Palestine,236; This is the extensive citation done on this one paragraph: “Commander of the Jerusalem District and Brigade, “Appointments of Governors in Conquered Territories,” May 15, 1948, IDFA/5254/13. See also: “Plan D – March 1948,” Matkal/Agam, Mar. 10, 1948, HA 73/94, pp. 5-8; “Guidelines for Treating Surrendering Villages,” Apr. 22, 1948, IDFA 1949/4663/84, p. 12; IDF Chief of Staff, “Discipline,” July 6, 1948, ibid., p. 19; “Summary of Meeting of Arab Affairs Advisers in Natanya,” May 9, 1948, ibid.,p.30; “Proposal for the Administration of Surrendering Arab Cities and Villages,” Apr. 1948, IDFA 1949/481/14; Matkal, “Abandoned Property,” May9, 1948, Part III, p.68.”


Anonymous said...

So here's the bottom line: the IPMN is perfectly comfortable with the existence of nations dominated by Arab Muslims (from which Jews have been expelled, in which Arab Christians are persecuted and killed, and in which black Africans have been the victims of genocide). It is comfortable with the Muslim attitude of superiority that expresses itself in the dhimmi system of second-class citizenry for non-Muslims who are allowed to live in Muslim lands. It is comfortable with brutal totalitarians such as Bashir al-Assad and Saddam Hussein,, whose regimes of murder and sadism never provoked so much as a peep from the people who speak for the IPMN.

But should Jews have the temerity to organize a movement that expresses the desire for a Jewish homeland, they are racist, primitive, tribal, exclusive, and must be opposed with ever fiber of a Christian's being.

This is the very definition of anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism. That PCUSA not only doesn't denounce such bigotry, but allows it to flourish and supports it financially, makes the denomination complicit in its hate.

David Fischler
Woodbridge, VA

Viola Larson said...

And there was so much more I could have written Dave-the review was just getting too long. I hope there will be more such reviews because there are those who are already beginning to use this as though it has something important to say which it does not. I am sure it will be widely offered and used at General Assembly.

Anonymous said...

David, I've copied what you wrote above and will save it for future use. Very well said.

Thank you.

-Bruce Byrne
Concord, Ca

Viola Larson said...

David, Sorry,
I didn't mean to call you Dave. I have too many Daves and Davids in my life including a son, and grandson and son-in-law and nephew.

Anonymous said...

Viola: We're everywhere! :-)

Bruce: Thanks for the kind word. Feel free.

David Fischler
Woodbridge, VA