Vinoth Ramachandra

Israel: A Unique State

Posted on: May 23, 2021

Following the brutal onslaught on Gaza in 2009, hailed by the Israeli government as a “military victory”, one of the wisest political voices in Israel, Uri Avnery, wrote: “What will be seared into the consciousness of the world will be the image of Israel as a blood-stained monster, ready at any moment to commit war crimes and not prepared to abide by any moral restraints. This will have severe consequences for our long-term future, our standing in the world, our chance of achieving peace and quiet.  In the end, this war is a crime against ourselves, too, a crime against the State of Israel.”

I have written so often on this Blog (particularly, 26 November 2014 and 09 April 2019) about the indifference of Western governments and publics towards the colonial aggression of the Israeli state that it depresses me to address this topic again, in the light of the recent events in Gaza.

What I will do is remind readers of 7 important facts which I hope they will share with others in their circles of influence.

(1) Israel is the last remaining European colonial power, which is why its aggression is not treated in the same way as that, say, of China or Iran. Whenever fresh violence breaks out, the US and the EU issue bland appeals for a ceasefire without attending to the obvious questions: “What event(s) triggered this violence?” What can the international community do to prevent such events from recurring?” “How many Palestinians were killed, and how many Israelis?” (The latter question will reveal just how disproportionate Israel’s military responses are, violating all “just war” principles encoded in international law and rules of military engagement.)

(2) Israel is the only country in the world that does not have internationally recognized borders. Just compare a map of Israel in 1948 with a present map. Israel continues to flout international laws with impunity (for instance, erecting permanent structures on lands seized by invasion). It does so because it enjoys the diplomatic, ideological and military protection of the United States.

The military occupation of Palestine encroaches on every area of peoples’ lives: restrictions on travel, high youth unemployment, poor healthcare and educational facilities, forcible annexation of houses and land.

Monoethnic, autocratic regimes in many countries (such as my own) look to Israel’s example in how to deal with their own intransigent ethnic and religious minorities. Seize land, re-settle it with members of the majority community, protect the latter by sending in an occupation army, label all attacks on the new settlers as “terrorist” or “extremist” acts and use them to justify further acts of repression.

(3) Far more Jews live outside Israel than within it, and many are outspoken critics of the Zionist project. There are also courageous rabbis and human rights activists within Israel who are opposed to the abuses heaped on the Palestinian people by the Israeli army and right-wing Jewish colonists. So to be anti-Zionist is not to be anti-Jewish. Yet some Western media and politicians regularly confuse anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. (The latter is also a misleading term, as most Jews who settled in Israel have European rather than Semitic ancestry. Arabs are also Semites, yet attacks on Arabs- who include many Christians- are labelled anti-Muslim!)

(4) While insisting that everybody recognizes Israel’s “right to exist”, Israel will never recognize the Palestinians’ “right of return”, let alone their right to liberation and self-determination. Israel’s settlement and development programs in the occupied territories- all illegal, as Israel was informed in 1967 by its own highest legal authorities and affirmed later by the World Court- are designed to undermine the possibility of a viable Palestinian state.

(5) Israel is not a democracy by any modern understanding of that term. It officially declares itself to be a “Jewish state”. Its own Arab population that carries Israeli passports are second-class citizens; and as for the indigenous Palestinians, they are a beleaguered and segregated people in their own land. So Israel is no more a democracy than South Africa was under apartheid.

(6) Theodore Herzl, the Austrian journalist often credited with the label “founder of the Zionist movement”, was rightly concerned that assimilation and sporadic persecution were destroying Jewish culture in Europe. The Jews need a “home” where they could preserve their traditional way of life. Herzl was not thinking of Palestine as the Jewish “home”- for Judaism had for the past two millennia reconfigured itself around the study of the Torah rather than the Land and Temple. He initially toyed with the idea of Uganda as a safe haven.

It was “dispensationalist” Christians in the US and UK following the teachings of John Nelson Darby, Henry Irving, the Moody Bible Institute and (later) the Texan Cyrus Scofield’s commentary on the Bible, who influenced the Zionist movement and the British colonial authorities to settle the Jews in Palestine. Wrenching Old Testament texts out of their historical contexts, they taught that the return of Jews to Palestine was foretold in biblical prophecy and would usher in the parousia, or “return” of Christ.

I tell my British and American Christian friends that they can never be part of the solution to the Palestinian crisis until they recognize that they have been a huge part of the problem. And fundamentalist Christian preachers in the so-called American Bible Belt, continue to be the problem as they refuse to accept any other reading of “biblical prophecy”, and spread misleading Zionist historiography around the world through the Internet and TV channels. Benjamin Netanyahu is a great friend of these American fundamentalist preachers and visits them on his trips to the US.

Ignorance of history has to be countered with historical facts. Bad theology has to be challenged with good theology. The Christian theologians of Palestine have come up with a Kairos theological statement similar to the seminal Kairos document of South Africa in 1985 that countered Afrikaaner state theology and mobilized the Church against apartheid. I commend it to you.

(7) As for the United States, there is a huge gap between public opinion and foreign policy. In relation to Israel, U.S policy since the Johnson era has been dictated by the hugely influential pro-Israel lobby (AIPAC) and the corporate-military sector. Many conscientious Americans oppose U.S. government policy and younger members of the Democratic party are far more outraged over Palestine than Biden and his generation and call for a halt to military and economic support to Israel. If the U.S. too were to become a properly functioning democracy, in which an informed public had a meaningful voice in policy formation, things may well change.

11 Responses to "Israel: A Unique State"

So true and well written. A sad commentary on the western world , Christian ignorance and inactivity , made worse by the present division between Republicans and Democrats.

Many thanks again for this sobering, concise but somehow comprehensive reflection on the current state of play. I appreciate your frustration about having to revisit this theme but it does feel different this time. This particular brutal reaction from the Israeli state seems to have captured the wider public imagination. The outrage is global, even amongst those who aren’t especially politicised. Some have attributed this new sensibility to the revival of the anti-racist movement in the wake of George Floyd’s murder; the anniversary of which is in a few days.

I also think it’s important public Christian voices like yours continue to provide the context and nuance that others seek to eradicate. It is a dreadful indictment that the ‘default Christian position’ is associated with justifying one of the greatest injustices of the modern age.

I would add, a note on the term anti-Semitism. I agree that it’s current use is too reductive and doesn’t tend to include other Semitic peoples. However, even the Ashkenazi Jews who settled in Israel will have Middle-Eastern/Semitic heritage as well as European.

I say that as it’s important to distinguish from some theories who throw doubt on European Jews’ bloodlines. That’s not to say that historical connection to Palestine/Israel justifies ethnic cleansing and de juro segregation in the name of establishing a homeland. Those advocating freedom and justice for the Palestinian people -Jews and Gentiles-converge on this point. It’s just a point of clarity.

Thanks, Tola, for your comments. The issue, however, is more complicated. There is DNA evidence that many Ashkenazis trace matrilinear descent from European women. (see Wikipedia) Also, there were a significant number of Christian swho converted to Judiasm in medieval Europe. The bigger concern, though, is the use of Semitic as an ethnic term. Originally it refers to a linguistic group (Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, a few others). Now it is used exclusively in Western media to refer to Jews. So anti-Semitic is a synonym now for anti-Jewish.

A similar thing happened with the terms “Aryan” and “Dravidian” in colonial India. These are linguistic classifications. However they were quickly deployed as “ethnic/racial” categories: “Aryans” were fair-skinned north Indians, and “Dravidians” were the darker skinned southerners.

Thank you, Vinoth, for reminding about the facts.
My thought process on this issue made me wonder: it didn’t take long for a nation who was a victim of Holocaust during WWII turn into victimizer herself.
And I agree that countries who were in charge of political decisions in 1940-1950 have not down enough today for helping to resolve the issues of Israel-Palestine relationships.

Brother Vinoth Ramachandran, if you have voiced your views on personal capacity it is your right and I respect it. But when people read your blog they view your opinion as a Bible believing Christian and as a respected Christian leader. When such a person gives his/her opinion in public, he/she should carefully evaluate God’s overall plan and purpose ( a God who is just and righteous at the same time loving); looking at the contemporary scenario our views and opinions may tend to be prejudicial and half baked. So as a renowned Christian leader your views about controversial issues could unsettle and confuse simple followers of Christ.

The followers of Jesus should understand Christ’s teachings about His kingdom and understand the Scriptures Jesus read -i.e., the Old Testament. There is no single promise concerning a land – real estate, for the people of God, in the New Testament. All the nations of the earth would be ingathered into Israel (Rom.9-11; Gal.3:26-29) through faith in Christ. Lack of knowledge of the bible, erroneous interpretation by reading ourselves into the physical identity of the Jewish nation – like the way most portrayals of Jesus is of a pale-skinned, blue-eyed, lean, and tall blond-haired man, are inexcusable reasons behind Christian Zionism.

Thank you very much for this timely write-up, dear Dr. Vinoth

Much needed for the Church in Sri Lanka as well!

Modern Israel has finally stooped as low as the Israel of Scriptures. The words of the old prophets, and of Jesus’, resound in all their relevance today. Who could accuse them of antisemitism? Their words were inspired by and ordained by an omniscient God who cares for the poor and the abused.

The words of the prophets (which Israel killed) should make the earthly power in Israel tremble with dread. But they harden their hearts (again), they rebel against the commandments given to them (again), they oppress and use legal double-standard knowingly.

We live in a crucial time of History where the Church has to decolonize the Gospel from the old colonial powers hold on a pseudo-eschatology.

Thank you for not being afraid to speak up. We need to research, explore and learn to discern, and courageously speak truth to power.

Andre

Here is the poignant confession of a conscientious Jew tormented by Israel’s murderous policies:

https://rb.gy/a8jbmk

What’s Behind the Uproar in Jerusalem? By Rev. Dr. Jack Sara (Evangelical Christian Leader in Palestine writing in Bethlehem Bible College)
https://bethbc.edu/blog/2021/05/13/whats-behind-the-uproar-in-jerusalem-by-rev-dr-jack-sara/?fbclid=IwAR1GTgGPL-9pgycFLND0KgfnMoFbL_nVWGCjmSoSe_SXNS-xtk2CXDL0JOg

PLEASE NOTE: I remove all “comments” that are not really comments that engage what I am saying but long sermons or multiple links to other sites.

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