Tuesday, August 01, 2006
MICHAEL GREEN ON CHRISTIAN SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL.
Michael Green, distinguished anglican author/theologian calls for an even handed approach to this thorny subject at virtueonline.
Should Christians support Israel?
Surely we need to be more discriminating and look both at the facts of the current war with Hizbollah and at the claim that scripture compels Christians to be pro-Israeli. I am not pleading that we take a pro-Arab stance, but that we renounce polarization and try to see God's perspective on it all. Justice The main thrust of the OT prophetic message is that God is a God of justice,and judges his own people for inujustice. Remember Naboth's vineyard. Israel has established hundreds of Naboth's vineyards on Palestinian soil. It continues to confiscate, week by week, more Palestinian land on the West Bank. In 1947 when the newly-born State of Israel came into partial possession of the land which Palestinians had held since the seventh century, the Palestinians were left with 47% of the land. Now they have a mere 19% or so. What would you feel if someone came and forced you out of your home and took posession of your house and garden without compensation? And then there is that infamous wall. It cuts through the town of Jesus' birth, separating Palestinians from their fields and employment. And now that the wall is almost complete Israel is busy confiscating Palestinian land on the Jerusalem side of it.
What are the Palestinians supposed to do? They tried non-violent protests against the wall. Nothing happened. They took Israel to the international court of justice, won their case, but nothing happened. The ruling is ignored and the wall keeps being built. Where is justice? There can be no justification whatever for their suicide bombing, and the rockets being fired into Israel indiscriminately. They must be resolutely condemned. But surely these are the tactics of the weak who are utterly frustrated. TerrorismIt is common to call Hamas and Hizbollah terrorists, and so they may be. But there was no Hamas before Israel invaded Palestine in 1967. There was no Hizbollah before Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982. If the label of 'terrorist' be applied to Palestinians, let it be applied too to American Indians fighting back when whites pushed them off their land, or to the French resistance for killing German occupying forces in World War 2. It is the inevitable reaction by the powerless to aggression. Proportionality There is no doubt that Hamas and Hizbollah provoked the present conflagration by capturing one and two Israeli soldiers respectively. But the violence of Israel's reaction has persuaded all the world leaders apart from the US and the UK that an immediate cease-fire must be called. The destruction of Gaza's water and electicity supply, and the devastating laceration of sourthern Lebanon have had incalculable effects on the civilian population and cannot be explained away blandly as 'collateral damage'. Half a million people are refugees in Lebanon as the country collapses around them. Some 480 Lebanese have been killed, most of them women and children, compared with 42 Israelis. One of your correspondents is rightly concerned about "murdered and butchered Israeli men, women, and children" but fails to mention that, on average over recent years, for every one such Israeli, four Palestinians have been killed by Israeli tanks, missiles and helicopter gunships. As for innocent children killed, they include more Palestinians than Israelis (the statistics are clear). In the past month in Gaza, one Israeli has died - and 140 Palestinians! And if it be said that Iran and Syria are arming Hizbollah, the same is true of America and Britain arming Israel - even, it is reported, accelerating the shipment of sophisticated bombs in reply to Israel's current urgent request. Biblical prophecy There are two major interpretations of biblical teaching about the restoration of Israel to its original land. One is advocated by the widely influential Dispensationists (who have only been in existence for less than 200 years). It argues that the promise of the land to Abraham is not conditional upon obedience but stands for all time. It maintains that OT prophecies of return and restoration were partly fulfilled by the return of the Jews from the Exile, but have been fulfilled once again since the return of some Jews to the land in and after 1948. The creation of the State of Israel is seen not only as a sign of the faithfulness of God and the fulfilment of OT promises, but as a pointer to the imminence of the Second Coming. The other and much more historically reputable way of looking at it is by Covenant theology - one covenant of grace with Christ at the centre. The Abrahamic covenant and all the OT prophecies and promises have to be interpreted in the light of the coming of the kingdom of God with Jesus. The OT must be read through the spectacles of the NT. This is how the NT writers interpreted the Old. Nowhere in the NT do we find any suggestion that the Christians looked forward to the establishment of a Jewish State or the rebuiliding of the Temple as part of God's plan. Quite the opposite, in fact, as the gospel spread to the Gentile world. The very phrase 'the saints' is applied by the NT writers no longer to Israel but to the people of God both Jewish and Gentile, who belong to Jesus.According to this view, the return of the Jews to Israel in 1948 is theologically irrelevant. This is not the place to debate these two interpretations, but their very existence, both of them upheld by reputable scholars, should caution us not to give an unthinking support to Israel on theological grounds. We need to avoid the bipolar perspective, so common on this subject.
As Christians we should not be 'pro-Jew' or "pro Arab' but even handed in expressing any judgments wemake in this most difficult and complicated situation, where both sides are guilty of atrocities. Should we not ask ourselves not 'What is my nation's policy?' but 'What is God's perspective on this?'