Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

We are coming to an end today of our week in Israel, and as usual it has been a wonderful, pognant, and painful experience. The plight of the Palestinian Christians is more evident every day. As most of you may know two weeks ago several innocent women and children were killed on a Gaza beach by the Israelis while these persons were minding their own business. And of course there are also various Palestinian women and children in jail here, simply because they are under suspicion and have no rights as citizens to fair treatment. They are not allowed to be citizens of Israel. My tour guide Mike, born and raised in Jerusalem, has lived under a Jordanian passport his whole life and he is nothing but a friend of Christians and leads tours of the Holy Land. He has a ministry of tourism. The pain he and his family experience from being separated from their friends by the wall put up around Bethelehem and the west bank is palpable, and it is unjust. The Palestinian Christians are being starved out of Bethelehem and they are moving to the U.S. in droves. Soon there will be few if any indigenous Christians in this land. And now of course Hamas has taken prisoner an Israeli soldier (not a civilian) in hopes of exchanging him for some of their family members. Israeli tanks are massing on the border of Gaza. We could degenerate into another stupid war in which all will lose and none will win.

I would ask you to pray for the peace of this place as the Psalmist urged us to do. It is what our Lord asked of us, for as he said "blessed are the peacemakers". We are off to Turkey this afternoon-- thanks be to God.


Traditionalist1611 said...

These so-called Palestinian Christians are in error if they are alligning themselves against Israel. The Scriptures are clear that the enemies of Israel will be defeated. Christians should stand with Israel, not with the terrorists. And politically, I'd much rather side with Israel which right now isn't perfect but is far more democratic and free than the surrounding Islamist regimes are!

yuckabuck said...

"As most of you may know two weeks ago several innocent women and children were killed on a Gaza beach by the Israelis while these persons were minding their own business."

The Palestinians claim that they have eye-witnesses that the attack came from the IDF.

Israel says that they have proof that there was no attack in that part of Gaza on that day.

The observer from Human Rights Watch backed off of his initial assessment (which the press trumpeted around the world) that Israel was responsible for the attack:

"We came to an agreement with General Klifi that the most likely cause [of the blast] was unexploded Israeli ordinance... We do not believe the Israelis were targeting civilians... We just want to know if it was an Israeli shell that killed the Palestinians."

On 6/19, the Human Rights Watch, while sticking to its demand for the establishment of an independent inquiry into a blast on a Gaza beach that killed seven Palestinian civilians, conceded for the first time since the incident that it could not contradict the IDF's exonerating findings.

(It should also be mentioned that Human Rights Watch has been criticized for being nearly silent on the mass killings and government-imposed famines during the last decade of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's rule.)

The Palestinians are biased and have an agenda.
The Israelis are biased and have an agenda.
The HRW group purports to be neutral, but may be biased and have an agenda.

My point is not that Israel is innocent. My concern is with how or should Christians can be involved in political issues. As I remarked here before concerning global warming, the news is so politicized these days, how can anyone be sure of what is actually true? It's obvious that the initial report blaming Israel was wrong. Yet anyone reading the news that day may have seen this headline (from the London Times):

"Babies die as artillery barrage hits families on picnic beach"

If we as Christians are called to show that Love that does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth, how can we keep uncritically believing whatever the mainstream press reports, especially as evidence of bias in a particular direction has become more and more obvious?

(Note that I am not a dipensationalist who sides with Israel right-or-wrong because it "fulfills bible prophecy" or somesuch.)

Isaac Demme said...

Thanks for the post ... we can all use reminders of the suffering of our brothers and sisters in Gaza.

to traditionalist1611 I would point out that we are not required as Christians to "side with" either Hamas or the IDF, and that both sides are currently using terror as their primary weapon in the current conflict.
When you detonate explosives in a populated civilian area in order to cause fear among the population (I don't care whether those explosives were carried by a suicide bomber or fired from an helicopter) you are a terrorist.
I do not for a minute blame my Palestinian brothers for "aligning themselves against Israel", when the Israel we are talking about is a regime that has taken their homes, driven them into a Gaza that resembles the Warsaw ghetto of 1940 more and more each day.
There is nothing in Scripture requiring us to side with the terrorists on either side of this fight, but there is much in Scripture calling us to support our Christian brothers and to pray for all.

Brian said...

Yuckabuck, I agree for the most part with the substance of what you say. I don't think that the problem of bias is quite as nefarious as you do, but that doesn't lead me to disagree all that much with your point of view.

One thing I might add is that there's a broader political context to Hamas' actions here that shouldn't be entirely ignored. As today's Washington Post reports, the Hamas leadership has been seeking rapprochement with Arafat's old Fatah party; today, they announced a deal to grant implicit recognition to Israel. It's not a total repudiation of past Hamas policy, but for the Hamas leadership to recognize Israel even implicitly is progress.

I think that the editorial staff at the WaPo is probably right to see the skirmish in Gaza as indicative of a struggle between Hamas' leadership, which is seeking rapprochement within and outside of the Palestinian community, and the militant wing of Hamas, which is still devoted to the destruction of Israel. The militant wing of Hamas is seizing the events in Gaza as an opportunity to incite popular Palestinian opinion against Israel and sour the new Hamas-Fatah alliance.

I don't necessarily think that this is ALL there is to the unfortunate events in Gaza; Israel probably is guilty of wrongdoing in the incident. But Hamas has interests of its own that go beyond the events at hand.

I definitely agree with Ben, though; we should all pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Layman said...

"As most of you may know two weeks ago several innocent women and children were killed on a Gaza beach by the Israelis while these persons were minding their own business."

You leave out the fact that there seems to be legitimate dispute as to who is responsible for the families' death.


The Palestinian Authority seemed more intent on blaming Israel than figuring out what really happened:


Benson said...

I have never understood why Americans are so quick to come to the defense of Israel's cruelty or violence... Regardless of whether this attack was carried out by Israel or not...Americans time and again come to the defense of the cruelty of Israel to the Palestinians...

My heart is troubled...


Brian said...

Benson, I appreciate and second your remarks. For the sake of my own conscience, let me say for the record that nothing I said in my comment above was intended to serve as legitimation of Israeli cruelty against the Palestinians. I suspect that, the stories to which Layman links notwithstanding, Israel probably does have things to answer for in the recent Palestinian deaths in Gaza. Israel has a great deal to answer for, period. It's just that there's an unavoidable political context to Israel's actions AND Hamas' response that at least needs to be acknowledged.

The bigger question has to do with the legitimacy and feasibility of the U.S.-proposed two-state solution to the Palestine conflict. Aside from whether it can or will be implemented, is the two-state solution a legitimate, worthwhile political goal, or not? I tend to think that it is; it seems to be the best among a set of even more uncomfortable options. Many differences of perspective over how to evaluate events like the killings in Gaza stem, it seems to me, from broader differences over these broader political questions.

yuckabuck said...

Brian, thanks for the added info on Hamas. Things are so muddled there, that I have even heard speculation that the bombs were planted there by Hamas in order to accuse Israel.

As for Christians reflexively defending Israel, I see only one comment on this page so far coming to the defense of Israel. Are not Christians to be quick to point out the truth? If indeed the deaths were due to "unexploded Israeli ordinance," then Israel surely does bear some of the responsibility for the deaths. I'm sure no Palestinian asked the IDF to leave unexploded ordinance on their beach!

And I see no mention of how many attacks there have been on innocent Israeli civilians since the intifada was declared in 2000. That statistic would also be a part of the larger truths regarding the incident.

Scott said...

Ergh, i did make a New Year's Resolution to concern myself less with international political justice and more with my immediate community, but i have just a couple thoughts to offer.

i do see in scripture that we are encouraged to side with the oppressed, but who are the oppressed in this conflict? i think that the victims are on every side--Israelis, Fatah, Hamas, non-aligned Palestinians. true, in this era Israel has the military might to impose its will, and it has done so in heavy-handed ways. but in doing so it has been very effective over the past decades in destabilizing the leadership of Hamas, periodically interrupting its infrastructure, and thus keeping Israel relatively safe from more cataclysmic attacks. one could make a direct analogy between Israel's campaign of terror and our own ongoing efforts to suppress Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Iraq.

before the Palestinians were victimized, the Israelis were subjected to three major wars--two of which were instigated by multiple neighbors--which aimed to destroy their country. Palestinians living side by side with Israelis in 1948 rose up without provocation and attempted to exterminate the nation in totality. as America has justified its geographically remote military actions as self-defensive, so Israel can be analogously justified in fighting their ongoing war against Hamas right at their own doorstep.

i hate what i hear about Palestinians having to endure hours of checkpoints and daily humiliation at gunpoint. i have compassion for them--Muslim and Christian alike--and i hope that i can work there someday to help build a strong and independent nation of Palestine. but there are no easy victims here. "Christians" in the Arabic Middle East have been just as culpable--if not more--than their Muslim neighbors in instigating violence. the human disasters in Lebanon of the 1980's were in large part the result of violence promoted by the "Christian" Phalangists and their international backers. i'm sure that most Palestinians, no matter what their creed, feel that they are at war--psychologically if not militarily--with the Israelis, and Hamas to them represents their dignity and their right to survive as a nation.

these are problems that really require miraculous forgiving power. they are not issues however on which we are entitled to point fingers or assign blame. implying that Israel is the obvious bully and Palestinians are the innocent victims betrays what hundreds of years of history have taught us about these people. perhaps we can learn a lesson or two from America's tragic involvement in Lebanon and Iran and be particularly tactful. "Like one who seizes a dog by the ears is a passer-by who meddles in a quarrel not his own." (Prov 26:17)

Chris Miller said...

We are praying for you and all the people involved. Keep us posted on how things are going.

Bill Barnwell said...

Good post Scott. I'm seeing brutality on both sides. I'm frankly quite sick of the whole thing and don't really trust either group.

Bill Barnwell said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Omar said...

I find it interesting that Jesus commanded us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, which would imply all who live there.

I also find it interesting that after the Ascension and Pentecost, we are living in a New Jerusalem reality that includes ALL NATIONS.

I find it interesting that "nations" in the Scriptures does not refer to political entities, but to people groups.

So then, what is the call of Christ to the "nations" of people living in Israel and Palestine? What is the call of Christ for us who sit outside the battlefield?

Ephesians 2:11-22
11 So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called "the uncircumcision" by those who are called "the circumcision"-- a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands--
12 remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14 For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.
15 He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace,
16 and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.
17 So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near;
18 for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God,
20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.
21 In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord;
22 in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

Alex said...


Can I suggest that you read "Whose Land, Whose Promise?" by Gary Burge when you get a chance? If you really want a full picture of what has been going on over there for the last fifty years and still goes on to this day, please pick up this book. It's a fascinating eye-opening read and may challenge some of the assumptions you are making and reveal some things you might not have known about the full picture.

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Friends:

Unfortunately there are atrocities aplenty on both sides of this disaster, but there can be no justication for Christians supporting injustice and atrocities by any onr, any where, whoever the perpetrators are. And frankly, the American press is so pro Israeli it is quite impossible to get the right info as to what is going down over there. For example, Israel has just bombed the only power station in Gaza-- 700,000 need it to have water and lights. This is nowhere close to a proportional response to what happened with the Israeli soldier. It is just another bad example of Israeli overkill.... quite literally. Of course this does not excuse terrorism by Palestinian. It is another form of terrorism however, which our government supports with your tax dollars.

Blessings from Istanbul,


yuckabuck said...

Here is what Dr. Witherington referred to:

"Israeli warplanes fired at least nine missiles at Gaza's only power station, cutting electricity to 65 percent of the Gaza Strip, engineers at the station said. The station's three functioning turbines and a gasoline reservoir were engulfed in flames, raising the specter of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where water pumps are powered by electricity." (from an AP report)

Israel claims to be pressuring the Palestinian govt. through these attacks on infrastructure in order to secure the release of a kidnapped Israeli soldier. The problem may be that the Palesinians do not have him! I have heard that every official in Gaza has called for the release of the soldier, and some are speculating that it is the Syrian wing of Hamas that is holding him.

I'm sorry to say that it seems that Israel is basically engaging in extortion here- We'll make your people suffer until you meet our demands. This is not righteous or defensible behavior.

In some ways Scott is right in drawing an anology between Israel's efforts against Palestinian terrorism and the American war on terror. But this case is different. In Iraq, it was the American troops trying to restore infrastructure, while the insurgents kept destroying it, adding more hurt to the people of Iraq in the process. In this case (hurting the people through destroying infrastructure), Israel's actions seems to be more analogous to the insurgents than to the American troops. Not a good thing.

Layman said...


I do not see how the bombing of the power station proves that the US media is pro-Israel. The AP reported it and all the major outlets (Fox, CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS) carried the story and noted that is raised the threat of a humanitarian crisis.

Omar said...

Yes, all the major U.S. networks reported on the bombing. However, over the long sweep of reporting on the region, there are marked differences in how the west talks about Israel and how it talks about Palestine.

Rather than try to give you examples myself, check out this column from the Los Angeles Times written by an American journalist who has covered the region extensively. He proves exactly what Dr. Witherington is talking about.


Scott said...

well, i don't think ben was implying that there was any connection between the power station attack and bias in the media. i think he rightly points out that the power station attack is incongruous with the purported objective of the israelis; they are inflicting exorbitant suffering on uninvolved bystanders, which is essentially an act of terrorism.

i think that the main issue of controversy for me is how to encourage moral behavior between nations. i disagreed with your stance on reparations for the same reason that i have reservations about the side you are taking in this particular chapter of the israeli-palestinian conflict. i do not think that world governments should murder people or exercise justice arbitrarily; but neither do i expect world governments to conform entirely to the standard of scripture either. if i had this latter attitude, then i could not justify religious freedom in america--which condones idol worship--nor would i support a democratic capitalist culture which promotes materialism in its middle class and cultural imperialism in its military-industrial elite.

political solutions to serious matters of global injustice always seem to involve the lesser of evils when you get down to it. affirmative action for instance--which is a form of social reparation--most benefits the minority upper class while extending little to the underclass which needs the opportunities most. encouraging the limitation of American aid to Israel on the basis of its military aggression hurts the American blue-collar workers whose jobs depend on Israel's vigorous consumer economy and its willingness to buy American goods and materiel. neither does cutting aid to Israel necessarily have predictable consequences on its behavior; a desperate and poor Israel simply has fewer jobs to offer Palestinians and more reason to forcefully protect itself from its neighbors. for the first twenty years of its existence, Israel existed without American aid, and it can do so again--by tooth and nail--if it has to.

i think that our drive to demand accountability and responsibility from the secular governments of the world is not necessarily a Christian attitude as much as an American attitude. in this country, we have always been so convinced that we can right any social wrong by making a law or appropriating money. we have progress to show for all of our activism and democratic reform. but i think that this progress--while it facilitates our ministry as Christians in many ways--is a veneer that is masking the global secular transformation that Western culture is imposing on the world. i think we as believers are strongest when we push for reconciliation between individuals; but we open ourselves to rebuke and judgment when we advocate the politics that advance the unseen agendas of powerful men.

Omar said...

I think I agree with you. Where I become so enraged is in how Christians in America abdicate the message and actions of the gospel to governments.

Read what traditionalist1611 wrote at the top of these comments. There is a large amount of bad theology running through the church in America that says what the governments of Israel and the U.S. do to Arabs in the Middle East is okay because they are the decendants of Ishmael and the enemy of God.

That may sound far fetched, but you'd be surprised how much I hear that. For a better read on this check out this article:

Layman said...


Perhaps I misread him, but it certainly looked like Professor Witherington was trying to prove up his claim of media bias by the example:

"And frankly, the American press is so pro Israeli it is quite impossible to get the right info as to what is going down over there. For example, Israel has just bombed the only power station in Gaza-- 700,000 need it to have water and lights."

Perhaps the "for example" reaches back before the statement about the press.

That's not the best reading, but its a possible one.

Ben Witherington said...

I am trusting you all have been keeping up with the news in the last several days. The disasterous use of force and kıdnapping and bombing by Israel with no condemnation by our government even of the power station bombıng ıs very revealing indeed. We are not interested in justice or fair play we are just interested in supporting our friends and looking the other way when they commit atrocitıes.

I want to stress one thing as clearly as I can. My time wıth Orthodox Jews ın Israel again has made all the more evident to me the horribly flawed theology that supports Israel even when it violates one Bıblıcal commandment after another as to how to treat the stranger in the land. As those rabbis say--- they do not lıve ın Bıblıcal Israel which will only come when messiah comes. The modern Zionist military state does not deserve our support especially when it behaves ın an anti-biblical fashion. Its not Biblıcal Israel anyway.


Omar said...

Thank you, Ben. Thank you.

When will you be home... we have much to sit and talk about.

Grumpy Old Man said...

A couple of factual corrections:

1. There are plenty of Arabs who are citizens of Israel.

2. The pressure on the Arab Christians comes both from the generally bad situation in the occupied territories and from Muslim pressure. Christians in Israel are a minority, but generally are free to practice their religion.

Ben Witherington said...

Dear Grumpy Old Man:

You are rıght that the Arabs of 1948 are Israelı cıtızens. They are a tıny mınorıty and do not ınclude any Arabs ın the West Bank or Gaza. They are mostly all ın Haıfa and Tel Aviv area. Secondly you are quıte wrong about Christianns ın Israel being able to practice their religion. Its against the law to do Christian evangelism in Israel and Jewish law also states that even an ethnic Jew who converts should no longer be consıdered a Jew!!!


Benson said...


You said:

"However, over the long sweep of reporting on the region, there are marked differences in how the west talks about Israel and how it talks about Palestine."

What do you mean by "The West"?

Bill Barnwell said...

Very enlightening article here about end-times fever. Here's an excerpt:

Evangelist John C. Hagee of the 19,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio has helped 12,000 Russian Jews move to Israel, and donated several million dollars to Israeli hospitals and orphanages.

"We are the generation that will probably see the rapture of the church," Hagee said, referring to a moment in advance of Jesus' return when the world's true believers will be airlifted into heaven.

"In Christian theology, the first thing that happens when Christ returns to Earth is the judgment of nations," said Hagee, who wears a Jewish prayer shawl when he ministers. "It will have one criterion: How did you treat the Jewish people? Anyone who understands that will want to be on the right side of that question. Those who are anti-Semitic will go to eternal damnation."

On July 18, Hagee plans to lead a contingent of high-profile evangelists to Washington to make their concerns about Israel's security known to congressional leaders. More than 1,200 evangelists are expected for the gathering.

"Twenty-five years ago, I called a meeting of evangelists to discuss such an effort, and the conversation didn't last an hour," he said. "This time, I called and they all came and stayed. And when the meeting was over, they all agreed to speak up for Israel."

Underlining the sense of urgency is a belief that the end-times clock started ticking May 15, 1948, when the United Nations formally recognized Israel.

"I'll never forget that night," Hagee said. "I was 8 years old at the time and in the kitchen with my father listening to the news about Israel's rebirth on the radio. He said, 'Son, this is the most important day in the 20th century.' "

Hagee's message is carried on 160 television stations and 50 radio stations and can be seen in Africa, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and most Third World nations.

Full article: http://www.latimes.com/features/religion/la-me-endtimes22jun22,0,6987354.story?page=1&coll=la-news-religion

jhafvenstein said...

Dr Witherington,

Israeli Arabs (not counting W Bank & Gaza) are not exactly a tiny minority -- close to a fifth of the population, I believe, and growing faster than any other demographic group save the ultra-Orthodox Jews. Arab citizens of Israel would be treated better by the Jewish majority if they were in fact tiny; as it is, their growth challenges Israel's raison d'etre, and they are subjected to a range of discriminatory laws and policies.

Geographically, the city of Nazareth is almost entirely Arab (I worked there with an Arab human rights group some years ago), and there are significant Arab settlements on the Israeli side of the "Green Line" and in the Negev.

. said...


Michael said...

Whether the Palestinians have any legitimate claim politically or geographically is debatable. What is clear, however, is that Israel fights not for its right to exist but for the very survival of its citizens. The Hamas government, duly elected by the people, is a terror organization, pure and simple, and their means in the past has been to go directly into Israel by way of rubes who have been convinced that murdering innocent women and children in shopping malls and schools by way of a bomb attached their body is the only way to wage this war.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria, the West Bank from Jordan, and the Gaza Strip from Egypt when it was attacked in 1967. They captured this land to serve as a buffer against future attacks from these nations. Now that Gaza has been returned to the Palestinians, the rocket attacks into Israel are coming much closer to populated areas. Israel entered into Gaza for this as well as for the captured soldier.

It might also be remembered that terrorists hide among the civilians not for their safety in hopes of restraint from nations with a conscience but for the propaganda that is sure to come when attack victims have had enough.

Yes, weep for the Palestinian people and pray for them but do not forget that they elected a terror group dedicated to the annihilation of Israel to represent them.

Jo Anne said...

I started reading this column last week and I haven't been able to get it our of my thinking. It was disturbing that the government of Israel is being criticized for attempting to protect it's citizens from being murdered by vipers within it's vests. Also that the American Evangelical Christians support Israel against the Arabs simply because they are descendants of Ishmael and for that reason all manner of injustice can be executed against them. That is not true.

Thank you, Michael; you expressed my thoughts better than I could.

Bill Barnwell said...

American Evangelicals are supporting Israel by and large because they believe modern day Israel is prophetic and a failure to support just about everything Israel does would incur a curse from God (based on a faulty reading of Gen. 12:1-3). Also in play is the idea that modern secular Israel is very tied into the end-times, that all nations who oppose are wrong from the get-go, and that indeed modern Israel is still very much God's covenantal people. You rarely, if ever, hear of any Evangelicals talking about Arab Christians who are affected by this mess, and I am glad Witherington is doing so. The bulk of American Evangelicals are more concerned about standing up for unbelieving Israel than they are about Arab Christians who call on the name of Jesus. Of course there is tons of brutality and backwardness in the Arab world and they are hardly innocent doves. But Israel has blood on its hands as well and is not without fault in its actions over the years.

see-through faith said...

interesting discussion ... what history seems to show is that walls (Berlin, China) do not work ... so it does seem futile to be building this one in Jerusalem and causing a lot of anguish fo the famly and friends it divides.

Celal Birader said...

Palestinians have been attacking with rockets from Gaza ever since the Israeli pullout. Palestinians are NOT interested in peace only in futile attempts to destroy Israel.

Omar said...

So let me get this straight: Most of you who are not Arab and are not Palestinian think you know what all Arabs and all Palestinians think or feel? So you mean to tell me that ALL Arabs and Palestinians want the destruction of Israel?

First of all... in all of your wisdom.... you probably missed the fact that "the destruction of Israel" to the Palestinian does not mean "the death of the Jew" but more the end of Israeli government controlling their lives. They have nothing against Jews, just Jews who crush a human existance.

And there is plenty of evidence that for all of the terror the Palestinians have thrown at the Israeli people, there has been just as much death and terror thrown at them by Israel.

So what does that mean for most of us who read and respond to this blog? Well... I would hope that if we read the Bible it would mean we don't sink down to the level that many of us have. In other words, it means that we proclaim the Cross of Christ, that in the new covenant says it does not matter where you are from or what you have done, the forgivness, grace, and restoration of Jesus is here and now.

And it remembers that in the creation story the word for humanity is ADAM, and that Christ came to redeem ADAM... meaning ALL of humanity. That means that whoever ISRAEL is is supposed to be God's people who forgive their enemies, serve the marginalized, and call everyone to the cross.

Did you get that? The call of Christ is not to BOMB THE HELL OUT OF ARABS IN PALESTINE but to FIND WAYS TO FORGIVE, LOVE AND SERVE the marginalized in the Gaza Strip.

GRRRRRR.... I am so mad at the Church for completely missing the ENTIRE NEW TESTAMENT CALL TO WHO WE ARE TO BE. And many of you who post here fall in to that catagory.

May God forgive us for knowing better but still sinking to the level of terrorists and those who do not know Christ.

Shane said...

I agree with what has been said about the enemies of Israel being defeated. According to Galatians 3:26-29, those who are in Christ are truly Abraham's seed, true Israel, regardless of ethinicity, social standing or gender. A Palestinian Christian is Abraham's seed; an unbelieving Jew (or Gentile) is not. Those who cause suffering to Palestinian Christians, whether Israeli troops or Muslim terrorists, should fear the Lord who takes the persecution of His people personally (Acts 9:4).

Until Americans understand what a deeply humiliating and infuriating issue the unjust treatment of the Palestinians by Israel is in the Muslim world, we will never pursue policies which fundamentally change the dynamic there. In the meantime, I am praying for the gospel to somehow have free course in such a hate-soaked part of the world, though I admit I often feel like this is hopeless.

Celal Birader said...

First of all... in all of your wisdom.... you probably missed the fact that "the destruction of Israel" to the Palestinian does not mean "the death of the Jew" but more the end of Israeli government controlling their lives.

Omar ... Israel pulled out of Gaza left it to the Palestinians. So why the Qassam rocket attacks into Israel ?

Jew hatred springing out of the Islamic worldview is the only explanation. And Arab Christians who go along with this are simply being foolish. They don't deserve out support simply because they are Christian. Check out analysis from Walid Shoebat who is a Christian Zionist and also a Palestinian.

Jo Anne said...

I think the discussion is on two levels. I'm thinking that the verse "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's..." applies to my thinking. God instituted 'nations' and government for the protection of it's people. I see Israel trying to protect it's people from extermination and it's land from being absorbed into the greater Muslim world. That's one level.

I don't think there's a single person who understands Scripture who would deny that Arab Christians are in the Body of Christ and are ONE with Jewish Christians, American Christians, Chinese Christians, etc.. Isn't this the other level of the discussion? The Church has to function within the "world", but we're deceived if we think that the "world" is going to adhere to Christian standards. The Messiah/our Lord isn't ruling and reigning on the Earth yet. (But then I don't want to start a debate about Millennial theology.)

Omar said...

"They don't deserve our support simply because they are Christian."

See... this is what I'm talking about. It isn't about "deserving support," it is about forgivness, reconcilliation, and serving our enemies. I think the Scriptures are very clear on this.

And it isn't about "Palestinian Christians" or "American Christians," or any specific group. It is about all of humanity, and I think the Scriptures are very clear on what happens if we only love those who love us.

Why is this so hard for us to grasp? Why do we hold our enemies to a standard of rules and faith, and we can't even follow the tennents of our faith? How can we expect them to come around and be a certain way if we won't even entertain the idea of living the way Christ called us to live towards them, for them, and for his glory.

This is the way of the Cross.... it makes no sense, removes our plays for power, and well... you get the idea. I'm rambling now....

Celal Birader said...

sorry Omar i should have written:

"they don't deserve our *political* support simply because they are Christian".

Jo Anne is right : the discussion is on two levels.


Omar said...

I agree that there is a political response and a Christian response. I don't have the time, and this is not the place, to debate what I think of all the politics involved here. There is always more to the story...

What frustrates me the most is that, from where I stand, a great deal of the Christian response has been abdicated to the politicians.

Ben Witherington said...

Wow what a fruitful and interestıng discussion this has been. One of the most flawed parts of the discussion ıs the notion that in the eschatological age we are now in fınal judgment wıll be based on how persons respond to Israel (presumably ıncluding modern Zionist Israel). This ıs completely false for two very good reasons; 1) fınal judgment ıs based on how one has responded to Jesus and this ıncludes how Jews have responded to Jesus; 2) the people of God as defined in the NT is Jew and Gentile united in Christ.Until Jews are grafted back into the people of God they are not saved; 3) we are no longer under the old covenant ın any of its administrations. We are under the new covenant and all the promise of God are now given to fulfilled by and fulfilled ın Christ and not elsewhere.



yuckabuck said...

Some Christians believe that we are judged by our response to the nation of Israel because of Matthew 25:31-46, where Jesus says that "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." The idea is that Jesus was a Jew, and that therefore his "brothers" must be Israel. I am wondering where that particular interpretation of Matthew 25 originally came from.

Was it a strictly dispensational teaching (the Gospels belong to a different dispensation, and therefore do not refer to the church, just as Scofield said about the Sermon on the Mount)?

Or is it just an overly literal reading that fails to reckon with the fact that Jesus intended to create a new eschatological community in light of the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God?

Clearly, Matthew 25 should be read in the context of Jesus declaring that the Kingdom of God is here, and then forming a new community around himself that was not based on ethnicity. This can be seen in the Romans verses that Dr. Witherington refers to, as well as in Mark 3:34-35 where Jesus says that "Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother."

Michael said...


If I said anything that led you or anyone to believe that all Palestinians, including Christians, are getting what they deserve, then you have my profound and sincere apology. Whether this continuous battle is purely theological in any sense can only be answered by those who are actively fighting.

There are attacks and counter-attacks that never end, and it is difficult to tell who shot first. From where I stand, however, Israel has been defending itself against persistent terror attacks. Are these attacks against the "biblical" Israel? I don't know, but what I do know is that Israel goes directly toward the source of the attacks; the terrorists go after primarily civilians where they live, where they shop, and where the children go to school. And the latest headlines indicate that the terrorists are PROMISING to bomb Israeli schools. Now I ask you: are these the acts of a legitimate government with a legitimate beef?

Israel has made numerous attempts to give where it can, and it has been consistently rewarded with more rocket attacks. These are terrorists, pure murderers, criminals, who place little value on human life. Is this the heart of the rank-and-file Palestinians? Maybe not, but they get caught in the crossfire because the terrorists hide among the innocents; it's how they operate.

Jo Anne is right; there are two levels to be explored but nothing can be done until the terrorists stop these dastardly and cowardly attacks.

Omar said...

I appreciate what your words... however you did say:

"Israel has made numerous attempts to give where it can, and it has been consistently rewarded with more rocket attacks."

I would have to strongly disagree. Pick up any basic history book on the subject and you will also find numerous stories of Israel's brutality and terrorism towards citizens. Take for example Sharon's masacre of women and children for no apparent reason.

Also, notice that Switzerland, which has the official duty of maintaining the Geneva Convention guidlines, has now said that Israel is in violation of the Geneva Convention right now with their attacks on Gaza.

There is no way that Israel has been this benevolent country that Palestinians simply "hate" for no reason other than their Jewish. While not at all condoning their tactics, we are incredibly ignorant if we do not look at some of the root causes of why they choose to do what they do.

Omar said...

you can find the article regarding the Geneva Convention here


Ben Witherington said...

Thanks for your post about Matthew Yuckabuck. It is perfectly clear to me that Jesus is referring to his own followers as 'the least of these' as the context of those verses makes clear.



Michael said...

I recall Sharon's incursion into Lebanon and that particular incident. Remember, Omar, that Israel didn't just wake up one day and decide to invade Lebanon. As they are in Gaza, so they were forced to move into Lebanon. War is, quite literally, hell on earth. Innocents get caught in the middle and innocence is lost. As for whether Israel is in violation of Geneva Convention in Gaza, I would ask of you: what would you have Israel do?

Omar said...

"Remember, Omar, that Israel didn't just wake up one day and decide to invade Lebanon."

Rember Michael, that Paestine didn't just wake up one day and decide to hate Israel.

Not that I condone terrorism, but the question must be aked... WHY resort to this?

Omar said...

And with regards to your other question, "what would I have Israel do?" I would have them read their Bible (what we call the Old Testament... not to criticize your intelligence, but for the sake of others reading this and have them look at what the Scriptures say regarding treating the "alien" in their land and God's intention of them being the light of God to the Gentiles, which for you and me means Christ. In other words, I would say to Israel that if you want to cliam Biblical rights to the land, then you must be ready to do as God has comanded and love and serve the Palestinian, regardless of if they are right or not.

And if you think this goes against the OT teaching, well then remember that you claim to be part of the New Testament, which holds you to a higher standard than what I just said... In other words, you are callled to forgive and love REGARDLESS of who it is.. and that inclued Palestinian Mulsim Arabs.

Michael said...


So you would simply have Israel disarm? Do you really believe it to be that simple?

As for Israelis reading Torah, there are many recorded instances when ancient Israel was allowed to defend itself.

I think we've reached a point where we must agree to disagree. I'm afraid you cannot convince me that terrorists have a legitimate beef when they use their bloody and cowardly tactics against innocent civilians.

I wish you peace. And by the way, you are not the only one with friends and loved ones in a war zone.

Bill Barnwell said...

Michael, is every Palestinian a "terrorist"? I don't think anyone here is defending terrorism, but the problem with most conservative Christians today is that they seem to think that the every day Palestinian has no legitimate right to live in the land and that they are always in the wrong when it comes to their dispute with Israel. And as has been mentioned before, of course, Israel can and should defend itself against atrocities, but that doesn't mean they should launch their own atrocities, and they should also be proportional in their response, which is something that they don't exactly have a sterling record on.

Michael said...


Define "proportional". This is not a contest by which the participants must adhere to a set of rules. Israel does not intend to get hit again, so their response is intended to intimidate and to destroy the source of the attacks. Hate it or love, right or wrong, brother, but that's war.

Bill Barnwell said...

Michael, if war is at least influenced by some modern internationally agreed standards, then yes, Israel has used excessive force on occassion. I suppose they could just wipe out every Palestinian and guarantee no future terrorist attack but I'm sure you would not support such a thing. You disregard their being "rules" of war, but internationally, even war has some standards, and you don't have to be some hippy one-worlder UN type to see that, just study international law. You consider yourself a realist because you are just seeing things for what they are, but that's the problem. I find it interesting so many Christians put the ethics of Christ behind the warmongering ethics of this world and their favorite political ideology. No wonder there is no forseeable progress in this realm and so many others.

Michael said...


I don't believe that I have ever used Christ's name as a justification for Israel defending herself. And yes, I am a realist. If Israel simply stands down and does not fight back, the terrorists will not go away. And incidentally, a recent poll suggests that 67% of Palestinians support Hamas' tactics of kidnapping Israelies as a means of waging their war.

And international law is useless if only one "side" adheres to its standards and principles. Terror does not recognize international standards by any means.

Bill Barnwell said...

Michael, my problem with this is that your mindset APPEARS to suggest, "Well, I see what Christ is saying about nonviolence, nonretaliation, not responding to evil with evil, etc, but sorry Jesus, you just aren't living in the real world" or we just limit all this to something that is simply other-worldly and not for us today. If that's the case, no wonder we've made so little progress in so many areas.