“Fly KLM to Palestine” (1931 Ad)


“Palestine never existed.” Or so I’ve been told many times. A Google search of this phrase currently turns up 430,000 results. While it’s true that Palestine wasn’t a nation, it certainly was a region, a territory with its own flag, with hundreds of thousands of people living there who were called Palestinians (in the same way that people who live in America are called Americans).

Fly KLM to Palestine

Source: Duke University Libraries (1931 New York newspaper ad)

Can you imagine flying to a place that didn’t exist? Neither did the people who boarded those flights. 

Notice that these flights were bound for Lydda, Palestine. Tragically, Lydda was ethnically cleansed 17 years after this ad was featured in a New York newspaper. According to a Wikipedia entry (with 118 documented sources, “1948 Palestinian Exodus from Lydda and Ramle,” 50,000 – 70,000 Palestinian Arabs were expelled from the towns of Lydda and Ramle in July 1948. Although these towns were located “outside the area designated for a Jewish state in the UN Partition Plan of 1947, and inside the area set aside for an Arab state in Palestine,” they were “transformed into predominantly Jewish areas in the new State of Israel, known as Lod and Ramla.”

From the Israeli perspective, the conquest of the towns averted an Arab threat to Tel Aviv, thwarted an Arab Legion advance by clogging the roads with refugees, forcing the Arab Legion to assume a logistical burden that would undermine its military capacities, and helped demoralize nearby Arab cities.[6][7] On 10 July, Glubb Pasha ordered the defending Arab Legion troops to “make arrangements…for a phony war”.[8] The next day, Ramle surrendered immediately, but the conquest of Lydda took longer and led to an unknown number of deaths; Israeli historian Benny Morris suggests up to 450 Palestinians and 9–10 Israeli soldiers died.[9] Once the Israelis were in control of the towns, an expulsion order signed by Yitzhak Rabin was issued to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) stating, “1. The inhabitants of Lydda must be expelled quickly without attention to age.…”,[10] Ramle’s residents were bussed out, while the people of Lydda were forced to walk miles during a summer heat wave to the Arab front lines, where the Arab Legion, Transjordan‘s British-led army, tried to provide shelter and supplies.[11] Quite a few of the refugees died from exhaustion and dehydration. Estimates ranged from a handful to a figure of 350 based on hearsay, which is why the events are also referred as the Lydda death march.[12]

The events in Lydda and Ramle accounted for one-tenth of the overall Arab exodus from Palestine, known in the Arab world as al-Nakba (“the catastrophe”). Many Jews who came to Israel between 1948 and 1951 settled in the refugees’ empty homes, both because of a housing shortage and as a matter of policy to prevent former residents from reclaiming them.

…Father Oudeh Rantisi, a former mayor of Ramallah who was expelled from Lydda in 1948, visited his family’s former home for the first time in 1967: “As the bus drew up in front of the house, I saw a young boy playing in the yard. I got off the bus and went over to him. ‘How long have you lived in this house?’ I asked. ‘I was born here,’ he replied. ‘Me too,’ I said…”

[Father Rantisi’s heart-wrenching story can be read in more detail here.]

In Israel’s first months, largely Arab cities emptied as inhabitants were forced to flee.

(Source: The New Yorker – October 21, 2013 Issue – very informative article written by Ari Shavit, an Israeli reporter, writer, and Senior Correspondent for Haaretz)

File:RefugeesEscortedFromRamlaOperationDanny.jpg

(Refugees Escorted from Ramla; Source: Wikipedia)

Other details about this ethnic cleansing can be seen at Palestine Remembered.

Nazareth - الناصرة : NAZARETH - Late 19th, early 20th c. 55 - circa 1905 - Bird's-eye view (Per Reem Ackall)

(Nazareth in 1905; Source: Palestine Remembered)

Jaffa - يافا : Jaffa's famous al-Hamra Palestinian cinema (1937) in Jamal Basha street. Note the Palestinian flag at the tower.

(Jaffa’s al-Hamra Cinema with Palestinian flag on the tower, 1937; Source: Palestine Remembered)

A photograph from Bethlehem in 1880.

(Bethlehem in 1880; Source: Pinterest and Palestine Remembered)

Street scene inside Damascus Gate. Jerusalem, Palestine. 1900-1920. Photograph: Matson Collection

(Damascus Gate, Jerusalem, 1900 – 1920; Source: Pinterest and Palestine Remembered)

Bethlehem Christmas, early 1900s

(Bethlehem on Christmas Day, early 1900’s; Source: Pinterest and Palestine Remembered)

Muslims, Orthodox Jews, Armenian Christians, men and women, different clothing styles and a thriving cityscape of Jerusalem. In 1896, 85% of the population in Palestine was Muslim, 10% Christian and less than 5% Jewish (half the population of Jerusalem, however, was Jewish - this was also the period during the first aliyah).

(Jerusalem, around 1900; Source: Pinterest)

See many more photos of pre-1948 Palestine on Pinterest here.

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Pre-1948 Advertisements by the Jewish Agency for Palestine


A small series of decades-old photo advertisements was posted recently in a Facebook group called “Christians United for Peace.” These interesting advertisements (see photos below) were created by the Jewish Agency for Palestine at some point prior to 1948, when the nation of Israel was founded. This organization “began as the Palestine Office…founded in Jaffa in 1908, as the operational branch of the Zionist Organization.” Then in 1929 this organization was “renamed, restructured and officially inaugurated as The Jewish Agency for Palestine by the 16th Zionist Congress, held in Zurich, Switzerland.” It took on the name “Jewish Agency for Israel” after Israel became a nation in 1948 (source)

 

 

 

These advertisements are not only interesting and historical, but they also reveal [1] the fact that there was a region known as Palestine and [2] the push for “a Jewish State” (despite only 7% of the people in Palestine being Jewish in 1914, 11% being Jewish in 1922, 17% being Jewish in 1931, and 30% being Jewish in 1942 – source).

To some, the first point might be a no-brainer, but a simple Google search will turn up all kinds of claims that there never was a Palestine and there never were people called Palestinians before Israel became a nation. Dean Obeidallah, whose father was born in Palestine in the 1930’s, recently published an article in The Daily Beast titled “Do Palestinians Really Exist?” According to Obeidallah, “People will tell me to my face that there has never been a Palestine and there are no such thing as Palestinians. To them, I guess Palestinians are simply holograms.” He notes that this claim contradicts the official summary of the United Nations in 1947 that “Palestine is the common country of both indigenous Arabs and Jews, that both these peoples have had an historic association with it.” Dean’s article is an interesting one, and his perspective is worth considering.

What do you think of the seven photos above?

Related post: The Land of Palestine from 1896 – 1948 (Two Videos)

Postal Stamp from 1850 (Photo Source); Khan Yunis is now a rapidly growing city in the south Gaza Strip, and was the site of a massacre in 1956

The Land of Palestine From 1896 – 1948 (Two Videos)


Here are two videos portraying life and society in Palestine from 1896 to 1948. This is great history.

The first video is 2.5 minutes long and features footage from 1896 when there were about 500,000 inhabitants in Palestine, including about 30,000 people in Jerusalem. Jews made up roughly 50% of Jerusalem’s population, but less than 5% of the population elsewhere. Outside of Jerusalem, where more than 90% of Palestine’s population lived, Muslims made up about 85% of the population and Christians made up about 10% of the population.

The second video is 10 minutes long, and features quite a number of still photos spanning the decades prior to Israel becoming a nation in 1948. There are universities and colleges, sports matches, and other evidences of a vibrant society. The music that this video is set to is pretty neat too. This video footage was included in a French documentary called “Palestine, Story of a Land.”

This footage might bring to mind the expression that has been attributed to early Zionists, that Palestine was “a land without a people for a people without a land.” Within the last couple of years I’ve learned some things about the origins and development of this expression. As Diana Muir points out in a well-written 2008 article, it appears to have its roots in a statement made

“by Church of Scotland clergyman Alexander Keith in his 1843 book The Land of Israel According to the Covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. Keith was an influential evangelical thinker whose most popular work, Evidence of the Truth of the Christian Religion Derived from the Literal Fulfillment of Prophecy, remains in print almost two centuries after it was first published. As an advocate of the idea that Christians should work to encourage the biblical prophecy of a Jewish return to the land of Israel, he wrote that the Jews are “a people without a country; even as their own land, as subsequently to be shown, is in a great measure a country without a people.”

Muir goes on to give examples of other Christian writers and leaders adopting this phrase in some form before Israel Zangwill in 1901 apparently became the first Zionist to use it, saying, “Palestine is a country without a people; the Jews are a people without a country.”

In any case, as these videos show, Palestine had much more of a thriving society before 1948 than many people have been willing to acknowledge. By numerous accounts, Palestinian Jews and Palestinian Arabs also got along quite fine during that time period. For example, Elias Chacour, a Christian Palestinian Arab who was nine years old when Israel became a nation, wrote about a childhood experience he often witnessed in the village of Biram:  

“Many of these Jewish neighbors came to Biram to trade as well. When they stopped by our house for figs, father welcomed them with the customary hospitality and a cup of tar-like, bittersweet coffee—the cup of friendship” (Elias Chacour, Blood Brothers, 2005, p. 24).

If one looks past the awful headlines that are currently dominating the news concerning this part of the world, one can find examples of Palestinians, Jews, and others actively working for peace there. Elias is one of them. May the people of this region soon experience the healing and the restoration that they need.

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A reader, PJ Miller, pointed out another interesting video depicting life in Palestine, this one being nearly 180 years old:

Identity Crisis: The Israeli ID System


Today I saw this graphic, shared by Stephen Sizer on Facebook, and found it to be informative, although it certainly doesn’t touch on every issue concerning the Israeli/Palestinian situation. The statistics are said to be valid as of 2011. This graphic illustrates a range of disparities between three groups of people when it comes to freedom, restrictions, living access, and voting:

  • 5.9 million Jewish citizens in Israel
  • 5.5 million Palestinians in Israel, East Jerusalem, West Bank, and the Gaza Strip
  • 5.7 million Palestinian exiles/refugees with no access to Israel or the Palestinian territories

Graphic courtesy of Electronic Intifada and Visualizing Palestine

A Review of Jan Markell’s Review of “With God On Our Side”


A Critique of Jan Markell’s Review of “With God On Our Side”

By Adam Maarschalk (July 16, 2010)

At the very end of April I wrote a positive review of the recently-released documentary, “With God On Our Side.” This film is, I believe, a much-needed critique of Christian Zionism, the school of thought which lends uncritical support for Jewish Zionism on alleged theological grounds. It’s therefore no surprise that some Christian Zionists and dispensationalists have already denounced this film.

One person who has chosen to slam this film is Jan Markell, known in certain Christian circles as a pioneer in the modern Messianic movement. Jan is the author of eight books and the host of “Understanding the Times,” a national talk radio show heard throughout the US on Christian radio stations. In 1975 she launched into ministry with “Jews for Jesus,” and much of her ministry has focused on Israel ever since. In 1982 she founded Olive Tree Ministries in Maple Grove, Minnesota (a suburb of Minneapolis/Saint Paul), a ministry she continues to lead.

Last month Jan wrote her own review of “With God On Our Side,” which I would like to interact with in this post. Her review is titled “Whose Side Is God On?” It was published on her site four days after the film’s release (on April 8, 2010), although her review contains no evidence that she had viewed the film by that time. In fact, she concludes her review by urging her readers not to see it either. It’s difficult to be objective when taking such a stance, but the reader may judge here whether or not her review is fair and responsible. For the sake of clarity, Jan’s words will be in RED font, and my remarks and interaction will be in BLACK font:

JAN: Today, one of the greatest seductions is that there could be world peace if only the Palestinians had a homeland. So this month, a new film was launched titled “With God On Our Side.” It is aimed at changing the end-time views of evangelicals and the theology that says the Jews are God’s chosen people and have a divine right to the land of Israel.

Praise God that these theological questions are being raised. Many evangelicals have indeed swallowed these lines for years without really giving them much thought. Who, in fact, does the New Testament affirm as God’s chosen people? For what purpose are God’s people chosen, and can unbelieving Jews possibly carry out such a calling? What exactly does the NT have to say about the land of Israel? More on these things in future posts… By the way, I don’t know anyone who believes that world peace will be achieved by granting a homeland to the Palestinians. Let’s mark this as exaggeration #1.

JAN: Porter Speakman, the movie’s producer, explains that there is a biblical alternative for Christians who want to love and support the people of Israel. He says there is a theology that doesn’t favor one people group over another but instead promotes peace and reconciliation for both Jews and Palestinians. That would be terrific if Palestinian leadership wanted peace with Israel. They don’t. They want a one-state solution and the destruction of Israel. So whatever theology Speakman refers to is bogus.

The actions and words of Palestinian leaders, one way or another, have no bearing on what is declared in Scripture. Palestinian leaders can say what they want, but the truth of Scripture still stands. Or would Jan have us believe that the collective voice of Palestinian leadership carries more authority than the Bible, in terms of how we relate to the people living in the Middle East? This film, incidentally, does not hold the Palestinian leaders in any particularly high regard, though it does advocate for the oppressed and suffering among the Palestinian people, a concern which Scripture certainly holds up as a priority. So, Palestinian leadership aside, does the Bible teach us to favor one people group over another, in this case the Jewish people? Or does Speakman’s “bogus” theology agree with the Bible? In my own review I began with these relevant passages:

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him” (Romans 10:12).

In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:4-6).

For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, ‘It is through Isaac that your children will be reckoned.’ In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring” (Romans 9:6-8).

Much more evidence could be supplied to demonstrate that ethnic descent counts for nothing in the kingdom of God (e.g. Galatians 3:28-29, 5:6, 6:15-16; Ephesians 2:11-22, I Peter 2:4-10), and that the playing field has been leveled because of what Christ accomplished on the cross. Speakman’s theology is upheld on these points.

JAN: The film’s trailer claims, “Palestinian Christians lived here for centuries in this land. Suddenly they meet Christian groups of people who say the Palestinians are obstacles to the Second Coming of Christ. You need to move out to make room for the Jewish Diaspora to come here.”

Historical fact: No one urged Arabs living in the region to flee in 1948 and 1967 except Arab leaders themselves. This was for political purposes. Perhaps nowhere is historical revisionism more prominent than it is with issues surrounding the Jews, Israel, the Middle East conflict, and the Holocaust.

It’s indeed tragic that Arab leaders have too often exploited the civilian population of Palestine for political purposes. This does not make the underlined statement above entirely factual, though, nor does that statement come close to telling the whole story. One could make the case that the Arabs who fled in 1948 were actually among the more fortunate ones. Tens of thousands of Palestinians were killed that year, and some 700,000 made homeless, including many of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Whole towns and villages of formerly peace-dwelling people were either sacked by Zionists, or tricked into leaving “temporarily for their own safety” with the false promise that they could soon return. Robin Miller details some of the massacres which took place at that time in this very grim, but well-documented article: http://www.robincmiller.com/pales2.htm.

Elias Chacour is a Palestinian Christian who was 9 years old in 1948, and lived in one of the villages that was completely destroyed by the newly arrived Zionists from Europe. He personally witnessed the murder of unarmed villagers (many of them were Christians), and the removal of every last person from that village by brute force, trickery, or kidnapping. The same thing (or worse) happened to surrounding villages that he knew of. His excellent book, “Blood Brothers,” chronicles these and other stories, but this is far from being his only point. He also doesn’t come across as bitter as he tells his story. In fact, he presently lives among both Jews and Palestinians, working to see reconciliation between the two groups. His book is very much worth reading, for many reasons, and I hope to post excerpts from it in the future.

Historians continue to dispute the reasons for the large Palestinian refugee situation created in 1948 (see, for example, this Wikipedia article). I’ve seen claims that up to 68% of the 700,000 or so Palestinians made homeless at that time fled in response to orders given by Arab leaders. However, I’ve never seen a higher number than this, and most historians seem to say that this number is far too high. Granted that it was true, though, this still means that at least 225,000 Palestinians were made homeless in 1948 because of the actions of the incoming Zionists. This is nothing to make light of, especially if one teaches that this was a fulfillment of Bible prophecy.

Wikipedia also has a list of about 500 “Arab towns and villages depopulated during the 1948 Palestinian exodus.” According to the article, “Some areas were entirely depopulated and destroyed; others were left with a few hundred residents and were repopulated by Jewish immigrants, then renamed.” Older documents related to these events were newly released to the public in the 1980’s. Benny Morris, Professor of History at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (who regards himself as a Zionist), had previously written a book on this subject, but when he was able to view the newly released documents, he had this to say:

[W]hat the new documents reveal is that there were both far more expulsions and atrocities by Israeli troops than tabulated in the book’s first edition and, at the same time, far more orders and advices to various communities by Arab officials and officers to quit [leave] their villages, or to at least send away their women, old folk and children, fuelling the exodus.

JAN: Mark Tooley of the Institute for Religion and Democracy states, “Anti-Israel activists see American evangelicals as key to U.S. support for Israel. That is why they are targeting evangelicals with messages of pro-Palestinian solidarity as supposedly central to Christian compassion.

“The film’s main message to evangelicals is that the old religious Right crassly imposed a pro-Israel U.S. foreign policy based on its end-time theology, creating untold suffering among largely innocent Palestinians. The film suggests that more thoughtful, more compassionate evangelicals will reject that heritage and instead stand with the Palestinians as the victim group most needing Christian compassion.”

Tooley continues, “The film perpetuates a simplistic stereotype alleging that American evangelicals self-servingly only support Israel because a Jewish presence there is central to their blood-thirsty, apocalyptic dreams about the Second Coming of Jesus.” I hope other evangelicals are as outraged as I am at being called “blood-thirsty!”

I wonder if this outrage shouldn’t be directed toward Mark Tooley, as he is the one who chose to use this term. I watched the film from beginning to end, and I don’t recall anything like this being said. I’m not so sure that Tooley watched the film either. “Anti-Israel…pro-Palestinian”—must we be so polarizing? For one thing, I hope it’s understood that one can be critical of the policies of the secular nation of Israel without holding animosity toward the Jewish community as a whole. One may also demonstrate compassion for the Palestinian people without condoning everything said and done by Palestinians. Again, the film’s synopsis in part states:

This film demonstrates that there is a biblical alternative for Christians who want to love and support the people of Israel, a theology that doesn’t favor one people group over another but instead promotes peace and reconciliation for both Jews and Palestinians [underlining added; bold in original].

“With God On Our Side” attempts to promote equality and an end to the rampant and unbiblical favoritism in Christian Zionist circles toward the Jewish people. In doing so, it is rightfully pointed out that many Jewish citizens and leaders are responsible for injustices toward the Palestinian people, a point which the average Christian Zionist often refuses to see. Equal time and space might be given to Palestinian injustices toward the Jewish people if this film were not a critique of Christian Zionism, a movement that already works overtime in pointing out such injustices.

JAN: To sum it up, Israel and the U.S. are nasty imperialists, and Christian Zionist evangelicals only back the Jews because of perceived abused theology: God will bring the Jews back to the land. It rightfully belongs to them. The last days’ scenario centers around the Jewish people and nation. Say folks, I say we can’t change Scripture although many are trying to do so today!

No, but I hope and pray that Scripture will change us, myself included. As tempting as it is, I will refrain from doubling the size of this post in order to address the underlined statement above. In my own view, though (and that of John Owens, Jonathan Edwards, and others), suffice it to say that where the New Testament speaks frequently of “these last days,” it speaks of the last days of Old Covenant, temple-based Judaism. Natural Israel did indeed play a part in those last days, but the result was her judgment, out of which a faithful remnant was saved. That faithful remnant of Jews, though, according to the clear teaching of the New Testament, was not the least bit superior in status to Gentile believers, and such remains the case today. Furthermore, unbelieving Jews are entirely outside of being heirs of the promises of God, as are unbelieving Gentiles. All prophecy, and all of God’s promises, are fulfilled only in Jesus Christ (e.g. Galatians 3:16, 29).

JAN: What is true is that Palestinian leaders and the entire Arab world abuse them, not U.S. imperialism and anybody’s end-time theology. Evangelicals are strong supporters of Islamic evangelism around the world [VERY much to the contrary, only about 2% of all giving among evangelicals goes toward missions, and only a fraction of this 2% is directed toward Muslim outreach]. Many evangelical agencies have been raised up, particularly since 9/11, to reach out to lost Muslims, including Palestinians. One such organization is Joel Rosenberg’s Joshua Fund.

The film “With God On Our Side” wants increased U.S. pressure on Israel to accommodate Palestinian demands, facilitated by reduced U.S. evangelical support for Israel. It just won’t happen. We are smart enough to know that what they really want is Israel dismantled altogether in favor of a one-state solution: Palestine.

Sigh… And this conclusion was reached how? Certainly not by watching the film. Once again, here is the film’s synopsis in part: “This film demonstrates that there is a biblical alternative for Christians who want to love and support the people of Israel…”

JAN: Just what exactly is “Christian Zionism?” It is a movement supporting the return of the Jewish people to their rightful homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel. Christians who fit into this category are almost exclusively evangelicals who believe God has a continuing special relationship with the Jews. He has a covenant with them that can never be broken. This is apart from the church. This is based on a literal and futurist interpretation of the Bible and the conviction that Old Testament prophecies concerning the Jewish people are being fulfilled today in the State of Israel.

This description of a belief that “God has a continuing special relationship with the Jews” sounds like classic dispensationalism, a doctrinal system invented by John Nelson Darby in the 1830’s. The idea that God maintains one covenant with ethnic Jews, and another with the body of Christ, violates the New Testament in numerous and very significant ways. Just to name a couple: [1] It creates two peoples of God, one a group of people who can trace their descent from Abraham according to the flesh, and the other a group of people who are spiritually descended from Abraham. For starters, see Romans 2:28-29, Romans 4:13-17, Romans 9:6-8, Galatians 5:6, Galatians 6:15, and Ephesians 2:11-22 for the truth on this point.  [2] It makes Jewish believers superior in status and inheritance to Gentile believers, since a Jewish believer allegedly inherits the blessings of both groups and both covenants, whereas a Gentile believer only belongs to the one group and will never experience the blessings/promises set aside for the first group. See Romans 10:12 and Galatians 3:28-29 for the truth on this point and/or do a New Testament concordance search for the words “distinction” and “partiality.”

I’ll briefly make a couple of other comments regarding this paragraph from Jan above. First, I hope we can at least pause and consider the use of the word “rightful” when it comes to ownership of the land of Israel/Palestine. Did it ever truly “belong” to anyone other than God? Consider these words from God in Leviticus 25:23 to the people of Israel, “…for the land is Mine and you are but aliens and My tenants.” Blogger PJ Miller highly recommends, and rightfully so, a 2002 message by John Piper on this subject titled “Land Divine? – We Should Treat the Israeli-Palestinian Dispute As We Would Any Other” (a couple of eschatological differences aside, I recommend it as well).

Secondly, I hope we can also ponder on whether or not the modern state of Israel has anything to do with “Old Testament prophecies concerning the Jewish people.” Much could be said on this, but one question I have (out of many) on this point has to do with Ezekiel 36-37. These two chapters contain [1] a prediction of a soon return to the land (36:8) [2] one of the clearest predictions of this present New Covenant age (36:25-28; cf. 37:24-28) in the Old Testament. Why would Ezekiel have predicted a return which was to take place 2600 years in his future (as many popular teachers today will contend), rather than the return which indeed took place “soon” under Zerubbabel/Ezra/Nehemiah? Beyond this question, of course, one must grapple with the spiritual language used in these two chapters, and determine whether it speaks of this present New Covenant age—having begun in the first century AD (likely an amillennial understanding) or a future Millennial age (a premillennial understanding).

JAN: According to the film, “With God on Our Side,” Christian Zionism and our strange theology have muddied the waters more than any other entity! So, along comes a man who cannot stand the stench of Israel, Stephen Sizer. He is a Church of England priest who has written several anti-Israel books and anti-Christian Zionist books including Christian Zionism: Roadmap to Armageddon and Zion’s Christian Soldiers. Here are some more blood-thirsty images!

Sizer insists that the theology of Christian Zionists rejects some ethnic groups such as the Palestinians. He suggests we are using the lens of Bible prophecy and not the lens of justice. Most evangelicals will always choose the lens of the Bible so let Sizer bang his head against the wall in utter frustration. He has a great platform to do so on the program by the so-called “Bible Answerman”, Hank Hanegraaff. Who are some championing this film? Those who usually side with religious Left causes including Tony Campolo, Jim Wallis, Brian McLaren, Steve Haas from World Vision, Gary Burge from Wheaton College, and more.

These are baseless accusations and, to be frank, they are “hits below the belt.” The onus is upon Jan to prove that Stephen Sizer “cannot stand the stench of Israel,” and that his books are “anti-Israel.” According to his Wikipedia site, Stephen Sizer is a pastor at Christ Church in Surrey, England. He’s also an author, theologian, and an international speaker specializing in topics relating to the land of Israel. He affirms “the right of the State of Israel to exist within secure and internationally recognized borders,” and stands against anti-Semitism. However, he disagrees “with a political system which gives preference to expatriate Jews born elsewhere in the world, while denying the same rights to the Arab Palestinians born in the country itself.” His position is that what is known today as Christian Zionism has “no Biblical foundation or historical precedent.”

There are plenty of unbiblical viewpoints which are widespread in the evangelical Christian community here in the US, and on issues related to justice and compassion there is indeed much that is found wanting. One of the most influential evangelical leaders in the US is mega church pastor and author John Hagee. In the previous post we examined a brief video clip from him in which he states the following words: “God, in the book of Genesis, takes Abraham out and says, ‘I’m going to give you this land, to your seed forever.’ All of that land around Israel, that we’re now saying the international nations have control of, have no more control of it than you control the moon. That property was given to them by a mandate from God Himself, and it belongs to them. The Palestinians have absolutely no claim to it, not ever. It is the greatest historical fraud in the history of humanity.” For the implications of this statement as they relate to Biblical justice, please see that post and in particular the discussion following the above-mentioned video clip.

JAN: This film comes at a time when Barack Obama is going to try to impose a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians. Obama is behaving as though he were President of the World, dictating borders and treaties even if one side does not want to participate. He is about to clash with the Lord God of Israel and America may never be the same. What other sovereign nation would put up with this scenario? None.

Gen. David Pretraeus has blamed the war on terror on Israel, saying that the perception in the Arab world is that America cannot “stand up to Israel.” As a consequence of that perception, Pretraeus said, America was losing support among the moderate Arab states.  There are no moderate Arab states. But this is just one more American voice condemning our number-one ally and “the apple of God’s eye” (Zechariah 2:8). There is now talk that Barack Obama is going to shut down Israel’s nuclear program. What other nation would be on the receiving end of such abuse?

Some have concluded that Israel, while important, isn’t that important to the United States. The administration has “dug in” on its position and maintains that any Jewish construction in Jerusalem is an “Israeli provocation” and that the price for “peace” is a Palestinian state ethnically cleansed of any Jewish presence.

Though again there is much that could be said on these points, I would like to generally refrain from responding to the overtly political statements being made here, both for the sake of space and also to minimize the chance that this will become the focal point of discussions which might take place in the comment section following this post. Instead I’d like to focus on Jan’s interpretation of Zechariah 2:8.

If Jan is correct in her assertion that the modern, political, secular nation of Israel is “the apple of God’s eye,” then who was the apple of God’s eye from 70 AD until 1948 when there was no nation of Israel? Did nearly 19 centuries pass without God having a special possession to call His own? This time period covers much of the present church age, so what is the Church in God’s eyes? Chopped liver? On the other hand, this is the testimony of the New Testament regarding the Church, which is made up of believing Jews and Gentiles alike: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9). We need not look any further to discover who can rightly be called the apple of God’s eye.

JAN: So those behind this pathetic effort to demonize a group of Christian Zionists and, for that matter, demonize all of Israel, need to do a reality check. There are consequences. Covenants are involved: Genesis 17:6-7; Genesis 12:1-7; Psalm 105:8-15. God is on the side of those with whom He has covenants: Israel and believing Christians who call him Savior. He will never break a covenant. That you can count on. You and I are betting eternity on His trustworthiness. Watching Him perform His promises to Israel should give us great comfort!

God did, though, find fault with the Old Covenant (Hebrews 8:6-7), and Jesus now mediates a New Covenant that is “much more excellent than the old…enacted on better promises.” The first one is obsolete (verse 13). Regarding the land promise, it’s true that the word “eternal” is attached to it in Scripture. As stated in the previous post:

Let us take note that the covenant of fleshly circumcision was also said to be forever/eternal/perpetual [see, for example, Genesis 17:9-14, and note the language used]. The same was said regarding numerous temple-based rituals [Exodus 28:43, 29:28, 31:16-17, 40:15; Leviticus 3:17, 6:18, 22, 7:34, 36]. How does the New Testament deal with the non-land covenants/statutes which were said to be eternal? Should the “eternal” land promises be dealt with in a different manner? If so, why? Were they ever said to be conditional? Are we not heirs of a better “land” under the New Covenant? The land promise was first articulated to Abraham, but what city did he look forward to possessing? The answer can be found here:

For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God… These [Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc.] all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland… But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city (Hebrews 11:10-16; cf. Hebrews 12:22-24 and Galatians 4:21-31).

JAN: I think it is time someone woke up and smelled the bagels.

Yes, it is certainly time to wake up. On this we agree.

JAN: Note: The official Web site does not state that the film will be available in theatres. Currently, they just suggest buying it at Amazon.com. I recommend you not put more nickels in their coffers so they can make a more vitriolic sequel…

“Vitriolic” can be defined as follows: “spiteful, venomous, hurtful, bitter, cruel, rancorous, and malicious.” If you have the means to purchase this film, please do so, and you will find that none of these words apply. Instead, you will have the opportunity to hear the perspective of Palestinian believers on this subject, gain new insights, have your heart stirred with compassion for all who are involved in the present Israeli-Palestinian conflict, encounter profitable and thought-provoking theological questions, and enjoy beautiful footage from the land of Israel/Palestine. “With God On Our Side” is available for purchase on Amazon.com, where several helpful reviews of the film can be seen. Alternatively, it can now also be purchased at WorldChristian.com.

Awaiting His return,
Jan Markell

SOURCE: Jan’s review has been presented above in its entirety. It can be seen in its original format either…

[1] HERE: http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs019/1101818841456/archive/1103296867412.html
[2] OR HERE: http://www.bible-prophecy-today.com/2010/04/whose-side-is-god-on.html#axzz0o21o4cr8

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All posts on the subject of Christian Zionism can be found here.


My Desire for Ethnic Cleansing is More Righteous Than Yours


My Desire for Ethnic Cleansing is More Righteous than Yours

By Adam Maarschalk (June 11, 2010)

What does former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee have in common with White House reporter Helen Thomas? Not much in terms of their political leanings. As we will see momentarily, though, both have left their mark on history by calling for the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of people. Huckabee targeted the Palestinian people with his remarks, while Thomas took aim at the Jewish people. Their remarks, less than two years apart, are quite similar. Yet, remarkably, one had the nerve last weekend to lash out at the other.

Is there a difference between being anti-Palestinian and being anti-Semitic? Is one more righteous than the other? Is the ethnic cleansing of one group of people justifiable, while the ethnic cleansing of another group of people is not? First, let’s consider Mike Huckabee’s analysis of the remarks made by Helen Thomas, which he rightfully saw as inappropriate, and then we’ll take a look at similar remarks made by Huckabee himself in 2008:

VIDEO SOURCE

Here’s a quick summary of what we see in this video:

[1] Mike Huckabee, hosting a segment on Fox News, cuts away to a video clip of Senior White House correspondent Helen Thomas being asked for her comments on Israel. She utters the now famous words, “Tell them [the Jews] to get the hell out of Palestine.” She states that the Jews have occupied the land of Palestine, and they should therefore “go home [to] Poland, Germany, and America and everywhere else [they came from].”

[2] Huckabee compares Helen’s words to Mexicans living in America being asked to go back to Mexico, to a KKK member suggesting that all African Americans go back to Africa, and to Native Americans asking that all white people go back to where they came from.

PHOTO SOURCE (Primary source unknown)

[3] Huckabee then acknowledges that Helen Thomas has since apologized for her remarks, but calls her apology “pretty lame.” This, by the way, is the apology she posted on her website:

“I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon.”

[4] Huckabee calls her original comments “outrageous, anti-semitic, racist, indefensible…”

[5] Huckabee declares that the Jews living in Israel “are home.” To emphasize his point, he adds, “Read Genesis 15, Exodus 23, Numbers 34. That’s why they are where they are. Helen, I’ve got a suggestion. Maybe it’s time for you to go home.”

[6] Huckabee says that Thomas, because of her comments, can no longer be an objective journalist, and she ought to be soundly rebuked by “her pals in the press corps.”

However, as Raw Story author Stephen C. Webster points out, Huckabee has his own “outrageous” comments to answer for:

There’s a saying about how people who live in glass houses should take care to avoid throwing stones. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee appears to be ignoring that age-old advice, taking several moments…to attack veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas over her opinion on the Israel-Palestine conflict — in spite of his own remarkably similar comments on Palestinians.

Webster points out that Huckabee shared the following thoughts in August 2008 with World Net Daily:

Because of the limited footprint of real estate they have, it’s not practical for Israel to give up any land. The two-state solution is no solution, but will cause only problems… It’s unimaginable. The city [of Jerusalem] must remain under Jewish sovereignty… There is only one place on earth where the Jewish people could have a homeland that is consistent with their roots, whereas the Palestinians can create their homeland in many other places in the Middle East, outside Israel.

Huckabee also expressed strong support for moving Jews into Arab-majority neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. Huckabee made these statements while on tour with Jerusalem Reclamation Project, “a pro-settler group seeking to bolster the Jewish presence in traditionally Arab east Jerusalem,” according to AP News journalist Steven Gutkin. On that same tour, Huckabee added this opinion:

The question is should the Palestinians have a place to call their own? Yes, I have no problem with that. Should it be in the middle of the Jewish homeland? That’s what I think has to be honestly assessed as virtually unrealistic.

In other words, says Huckabee, the non-Jewish population currently living in Israel ought to be removed from that land. If carried out, this would be known as “ethnic cleansing,” defined this way by the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

The expulsion, imprisonment, or killing of an ethnic minority by a dominant majority in order to achieve ethnic homogeneity

A good case can be made that this is precisely what has been taking place in the present Israel-Palestinian conflict. One of the talking points of the Zionist cause, also taken up by Christian Zionism (Huckabee belongs to this camp), is that Palestine was largely uninhabited prior to the establishment of Israel as a nation in 1948. This reflects the controversial statement of Zionism’s founder, Theodor Herzl, made at a landmark conference in Switzerland in 1897:

[Palestine is] a land without a people, waiting for a people without a land.

Many Zionists today also spin the propaganda that the vast majority of Palestinians today are recent arrivals to the land now known as Israel. This is simply not true. The land has been inhabited for many centuries. Many Palestinians today can legitimately attest that their grandparents, great-grandparents, and earlier ancestors were born in the region known as Palestine. Documented sources on Wikipedia, for example, state the following:

According to Ottoman [empire] statistics studied by Justin McCarthy, the population of Palestine in the early 19th century was 350,000, in 1860 it was 411,000 and in 1900 about 600,000, of which 94% were Arabs. In 1914 Palestine had a population of 657,000 Muslim Arabs, 81,000 Christian Arabs, and 59,000 Jews. McCarthy estimates the non-Jewish population of Palestine at 452,789 in 1882, 737,389 in 1914, 725,507 in 1922, 880,746 in 1931 and 1,339,763 in 1946.

If these numbers are true, using the given variables, we can construct a chart which looks like this:

YEAR ARABS % JEWS % TOTAL
Early 1800’s 329,000 94% 21,000 6% 350,000
1860 386,000 94% 25,000 6% 411,000
1882 452,000 94% 29,000 6% 481,000
1900 564,000 94% 36,000 6% 600,000
1914 737,389 ** 93% 59,000 7% 796,000
1922 725,507 N/A N/A N/A N/A
1931 880,746 N/A N/A N/A N/A
1946 1,339,763 N/A N/A N/A N/A

**89% Muslim, 11% Christian

According to official census reports for the British Mandate for Palestine, the following chart reflects the religious demographics of Palestine in 1922, 1931, and 1942 (the figures from 1942 being only estimates because of “Arab and Jewish illegal immigration” at the time):

YEAR MUSLIMS % JEWS % CHRISTIANS % TOTAL
1922 589,177 78.3% 83,790 11.1% 71,464 9.5% 752,048
1931 759,700 73.5% 174,606 16.9% 88,907 8.6% 1,033,314
1942 995,292 61.4% 484,408 29.9% 127,184 7.9% 1,620,005

Is a Palestinian homeland, then, “virtually unrealistic,” as Mike Huckabee says? Was it unrealistic in centuries past? On the contrary, there is evidence that a scandalous plan has been hatched during the last 120 years or so to replace the Palestinian homeland with a Jewish one by means of ethnic cleansing. For example, in 1921, the active chairman of the Zionist Commission, Dr. Eder, said the following to British government officials:

There can only be one National Home in Palestine, and that a Jewish one, and no equality in the partnership between Arabs, but a Jewish predominance as soon as the numbers of that race are sufficiently increased.

It’s disheartening, tragic actually, that Christian Zionists have aligned themselves with Zionists who have been advocating ethnic cleansing since the beginning of their movement. Ironically, Christian Zionists have stood in complete solidarity with non-Christian Jews who have been responsible for making homeless, or even killing, Palestinian Christians (along with Palestinian Muslims).

One very important thing to remember is that not all Jews are Zionists. Many, in fact, strongly oppose Zionism.

One Palestinian Christian whose family was hunted, tricked, made homeless, and temporarily split up (and whose entire village was destroyed) is Elias Chacour, the author of “Blood Brothers.” Elias was 9 years old when Israel became a nation in 1948, at which time these things and much more took place. In his personal experience, prior to this turn of events, his family and their fellow villagers had lived peacefully with their Jewish neighbors, all of whom were disgusted when these things took place. Following the Zionist invasion, everything changed. Naturally speaking, Elias has every reason to be bitter, as many more not-yet-mentioned injustices took place against him, his family, and many of the Palestinian people he knew. But Elias’ heart has been transformed by Christ, and today, despite having been educated in the West, he voluntarily lives among his people, ministering and seeking for ways to see Jews and Palestinians reconciled to each other. His story and his message is one that desperately needs to be heard, especially by anyone who is enamored with Christian Zionism. His powerful book, “Blood Brothers,” is available on Amazon.com for as little as $3.50 (used), or $4.85 (new). I highly, highly recommend it:

http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Brothers-Elias-Chacour/dp/0800793218/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1276242746&sr=8-1

Many were deeply shocked and/or angered last week at the statements made by Helen Thomas regarding the Jewish people living in Israel, and Thomas has since stepped down from her position. Let there be no misunderstanding—I’m not defending what she said. Yet it’s revealing, at least in the US, that when similar statements are made regarding the Palestinian people (whether as harsh-sounding as Helen’s or not), there seems to be much less of an outcry. It’s even more shameful when Christian pastors and leaders articulate such things and hundreds of thousands in the evangelical Christian community shout “Amen!” Mike Huckabee is not alone in the sentiments that he holds.

In May 2002, House Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey (Texas) said on MSNBC’s highly-rated Hardball program that he was “not content to give up any part of Israel for the purpose of a Palestinian state.” He added that “there are many Arab nations that have many hundreds of thousands of acres of land, soil, and property and opportunity to create a Palestinian state…I happen to believe that the Palestinians should leave… I believe that Israel is the state for the Jewish people.” Armey, in this interview, was given numerous chances to clarify his stance, and to back down from his hard-line rhetoric, but he stuck to his guns. His belief was that the West Bank should have no Palestinian presence whatsoever. The transcript of this entire conversation can be seen here.

Megachurch Pastor John Hagee, the founder of the organization Christians United for Israel (CUFI), has been even more extreme. As a political lobbyist on behalf of Zionism, Hagee utilizes his followers to push the American government to consistently side with Israel, even if it means supporting unjust and inhumane policies toward the minorities within her borders. This brief video clip from the documentary film, “With God On Our Side,” illustrates just how extreme John Hagee is when it comes to disparaging the Palestinian people in favor of Zionist ambitions:

Video Source: “The Rebranding of Christians United for Israel (Christian Zionism)” by Porter Speakman, Jr.

In this video clip, we hear John Hagee say these words:

God, in the book of Genesis, takes Abraham out and says, “I’m going to give you this land, to your seed forever.” All of that land around Israel, that we’re now saying the international nations have control of, have no more control of it than you control the moon. That property was given to them by a mandate from God Himself, and it belongs to them. The Palestinians have absolutely no claim to it, not ever. It is the greatest historical fraud in the history of humanity.

These are strong words, but they are devoid of compassion. The implications of saying that the Palestinian people have never had a claim to this land are huge. Among other things, it says to many Palestinian Muslims and Palestinian Christians alike that their forced removal from their homes was justifiable. They deserved such brutal treatment, including being made refugees and witnessing the murder of friends and family, because they dared to squat illegally on the land once occupied by ancient Israel prior to the destruction of that nation in 70 AD. It’s not a travesty that 700,000 or so Palestinians were made refugees in 1948, or that 4 million or so have been made refugees since that time. No, this was their due for standing in the way of the rightful occupation of this land by the Jewish people.

Hagee’s comments go even deeper than this, though. He mentioned “all of that land around Israel,” saying that it also belongs to the Jewish people forever. It seems that he would justify further ethnic cleansing, and perhaps even genocide, if that’s what it would take to get this land into the hands of Zionists. Stephen Webster addresses this same question with regard to the statements made by Mike Huckabee, but it applies just as well to what Hagee is saying here:

Liberal watchdog blog Think Progress added: “Moreover, Huckabee’s suggestion that the Bible be used to justify international boundaries and dictate foreign policy seems to be both a violation of the separation of church and state, and dangerously out of touch with reality. Would Huckabee endorse expanding Israel to cover the entire area God promised to Abraham — which would stretch from ‘the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates,’ including much of modern-day Egypt, Jordan, and Syria — and kick out the local populations along the way?”

In future posts we will look more deeply into the theological side of things as it regards Zionism, and the land promises in particular. In order to not leave the claims of Huckabee and Hagee unaddressed, though, I’ll say a few things for now on this subject. God did indeed promise a great deal of land (Genesis 15:18-21) to Abraham and his offspring “forever”:

And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojourning, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God” (Genesis 17:8).

Let us take note that the covenant of fleshly circumcision was also said to be forever/eternal/perpetual [see, for example, Genesis 17:9-14, and note the language used]. The same was said regarding numerous temple-based rituals [Exodus 28:43, 29:28, 31:16-17, 40:15; Leviticus 3:17, 6:18, 22, 7:34, 36]. How does the New Testament deal with the non-land covenants/statutes which were said to be eternal? Should the “eternal” land promises be dealt with in a different manner? If so, why? Were they ever said to be conditional? Are we not heirs of a better “land” under the New Covenant? The land promise was first articulated to Abraham, but what city did he look forward to possessing? The answer can be found here:

For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God… These [Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc.] all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland… But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city (Hebrews 11:10-16; cf. Hebrews 12:22-24 and Galatians 4:21-31).

Furthermore, all of God’s promises are fulfilled in Christ, and this is true in particular of the promises made to Abraham:

Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ… And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise (Galatians 3:16, 29).

This fits what the apostle Paul says elsewhere (parenthetical notes added):

For not all who are descended from [natural] Israel belong to [spiritual] Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his [natural] offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring (Romans 9:6-8; cf. Romans 2:28-29).

CONCLUSION

If the remarks made by Helen Thomas cause us indignation, but the remarks made by Mike Huckabee, Dick Armey, and John Hagee only make us shrug our shoulders (or, even worse, bring out agreement in us), we have some questions to ask ourselves. Some searching of our hearts is in order, not to mention the cleaning up of our theology. Do we (those of us who claim to be God’s people) love the Palestinian people just as much as we love the Jewish people? Do we see that neither group ought to be subjected to ethnic cleansing in any form? Let us have the heart of God, and the mind of Christ, in these things.

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All posts on the subject of Christian Zionism can be found here.

A post on the teachings and agenda of John Hagee is still forthcoming. It’s quite a project, so I allowed this post to “jump the queue” in the meantime.

“With God On Our Side”: A Documentary on Christian Zionism


FILM REVIEW: “With God On Our Side” (includes video previews)

by Adam Maarschalk: April 29, 2010

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him” (Romans 10:12).

In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:4-6).

For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, ‘It is through Isaac that your children will be reckoned.’ In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring” (Romans 9:6-8).

These three passages are only a sampling of New Testament passages demonstrating that “the playing field” is leveled because of Christ’s work on the cross, and that in the kingdom of God ethnic descent counts for absolutely nothing. Saving faith in Christ is required to have any stake whatsoever in the promises of God (see especially Galatians 3:7-9, 16, 29; Romans  4:13-16, 22-25; Galatians 5:6, 6:15-16). How does this New Covenant truth play out, though, in 21st century American Christianity? Do we believe it? Do we teach it? Do we practice it? Or do we teach instead that God favors one ethnic group over all others, and that He holds out promises for that one ethnic group which He withholds from others? The sad fact is that there is a popular movement which indeed strongly advocates this type of partiality and favoritism. This movement is known as Christian Zionism, an offshoot of Dispensationalism, the school of thought invented by John Nelson Darby in the 1830’s and popularized by the 1909 publishing of the Scofield Reference Bible.

Are there significant implications for supporting Christian Zionism? Porter Speakman Jr. believes so. Speakman is the director of a brand new documentary titled “With God On Our Side” (not to be confused with a 2004 documentary by the same name highlighting “the rise of the religious right in America”). It was released by Rooftop Productions on April 8, 2010. The following is the film’s synopsis:

With God On Our Side takes a look at the theology of Christian Zionism, which teaches that because the Jews are God’s chosen people, they have a divine right to the land of Israel. Aspects of this belief system lead some Christians in the West to give uncritical support to Israeli government policies, even those that privilege Jews at the expense of Palestinians, leading to great suffering among Muslim and Christian Palestinians alike and threatening Israel’s security as a whole.

This film demonstrates that there is a biblical alternative for Christians who want to love and support the people of Israel, a theology that doesn’t favor one people group over another but instead promotes peace and reconciliation for both Jews and Palestinians.

I watched this documentary last weekend, and highly recommend it for anyone who has any interest at all in the present Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and especially for those who have theological convictions regarding modern day Israel and/or the Jewish people. My brief review of this film will follow shortly, but first I’d like to highlight the five official (short) video clips posted on Vimeo to promote the film. They don’t do justice to the excellent content of the film itself, but they are a good introduction:

[1]

This first video is the official trailer of “With God On Our Side.” It includes brief testimony from Salim Munayer, a Palestinian Christian who lived in the region when Israel became a nation in 1948. Salim helped to found Musalaha, a non-profit organization “that works toward reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians based on the Biblical principles of peace, justice, and love.”  This trailer also includes footage from certain Palestinian areas, and speaks briefly of the more than 3 million Palestinian refugees who today make up the largest refugee population in the world. The viewer is also given a couple of brief glances at a “Christians United for Israel” (CUFI) rally led by pastor John Hagee of San Antonio, Texas.

[2]

In this second video clip, Gary Burge (Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, and a student living in Beirut when the Lebanon civil war broke out in the 1970’s) speaks on Biblical justice and kingdom values. Examples would be the truths Jesus articulated in the Sermon on the Mount, and His actions toward the people who were marginalized in the Israel of His day. Gary asks whether or not evangelical Christians today are promoting and applying these values equally toward all peoples in the Middle East, regardless of their background.

[3]

In this third video clip, Salim Munayer, who is also a leader on faculty at Bethlehem Bible College in Palestine, tells of a popular US Christian radio anchor interviewed some time ago on Israeli TV. This Christian leader cited the book of Joshua in making his case that the Jews should destroy the population of Lebanon. The point of this Palestinian believer is that many American Christian leaders are being perceived in the Middle East as warmongers, as desiring to be rich but not caring for the poor, as standing for power and not peace/justice, as hating Muslims, as being one-sided regarding the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, etc. He points out that certain Christian spokespersons in America (especially from the Christian Zionist camp) are heard loudly in the Middle East, and their statements are immediately translated into Arabic on a regular basis. Their teachings and political opinions are hindering the ministry of believers in that region.

[4]

In this fourth video clip, a Christian British journalist speaks of the unjust accusation of anti-semitism which is often leveled at those who attempt to tell the “Palestinian narrative,” or who advocate equality between the Jewish and Palestinian communities. I might add that I’ve also personally heard this charge applied unfairly to those who simply question or reject the teachings of dispensationalism and/or Christian Zionism, which happen to be fairly new doctrines in Church history. Another term which is hastily applied to those who don’t believe that the Jewish people hold a special status in New Covenant Christianity is “replacement theology.”

Photo Credits: All photos in this post are sourced from the “We Love Israel” page on Facebook.

[5]

In this fifth video clip, Stephen Sizer (a pastor at Christ Church in Surrey, England; also an author, theologian, and an international speaker specializing in topics relating to the land of Israel) speaks of the danger of simplistic answers regarding the Israeli/Palestinian situation. These dangers include making one group or the other “the bad guys,” or demonizing a whole group of people, leading to a justification of the abuse of civilians in order to advance a certain cause. He compares some of the arguments which are being advanced today to the arguments which allowed for the ethnic cleansing of North America’s indigenous people in generations past.

A Brief Review of “With God On Our Side”

One of the features of this film which I greatly appreciated was the space given to Palestinian Christians to share their stories and their perspectives. They are often a forgotten voice in the present conflict. The same is unfortunately true in the world of Christian Zionism, where even Jewish unbelievers are among the favored ones, but our Palestinian Christian brothers and sisters are too often sidelined. One man shared what he saw firsthand in 1948 when Israel became a nation, when his own family members were made homeless along with nearly 700,000 other people. He doesn’t share these details with bitterness. Instead, he expresses how he loved the Jewish people prior to 1948, and by the grace of God continues to love them post-1948. Upon watching the film, one gets the sense that there are so many similar stories which could and should be told.

Another helpful feature of the film is an informative section devoted to the history of the land/region of Palestine during the last several centuries. The film’s very informative official site provides some of these same details, minus the attractive graphics presented in the film. One learns about the Ottoman Empire, its fall around the time of World War I, the famous Balfour Declaration of 1917, and British-controlled Palestine during the “British Mandate,” all prior to 1948. As the film site states,

The status of the populations between Arabs and Jews living in the land of Palestine before 1948 is one that is continuing to be debated. While researching for this film, we came across various population numbers and statistics. We have tried to take numbers that most accurately indicated the realities on the ground at that time. The two main things that can be said with little doubt, no matter what numbers you use is that, one, the land of Palestine was not empty when Jews began immigrating back in the late 19th century. Two, there was a majority Arab population and minority Jewish communities living in the land of Palestine before 1948.

Jewish immigration to Palestine grew, especially during and after WW2 and the Holocaust, which saw the systematic murder of over 6 million Jews at the hands of the Nazis. As Jewish immigration grew, tensions between the two communities mounted. However, before that, Arabs and Jews lived together peacefully. It is true that there was Arab migration into the area as Jewish immigration and opportunities arose; however, the idea that Arabs only started to populate the area when Jews made it prosperous is a myth.

Speaking of myths, some of the theology characteristic of Christian Zionism is discussed throughout the film, but especially during the last half hour (the film is 82 minutes long). The film is not one-sided in this regard, though. Christian Zionists, John Hagee being one of them, are given numerous opportunities to express their views without interruption. In some cases, their views are then refuted by featured speakers in this documentary. In other cases, their specific points are not so thoroughly addressed, though I found myself wishing that they would have been.

The video footage alone makes this film worth viewing. It was fascinating to see the way of life of both Jews and Palestinians in villages, cities, and marketplaces. To be sure, there were heartbreaking moments as well. The suffering and injustices are incredible, and too many are needlessly being made victims, and much more could be said on this. The viewer learns of some disturbing details behind the push to locate settlers in disputed areas, including massive financial support from Christian organizations in America which is enabling certain aggressive activities to continue and increase. Is God on one side of the present conflict, but not on the other? Christian Zionists say “yes,” but does the Bible agree? Emphatically, I must say “no.”

It’s my conviction that it’s impossible to make a responsible case from within the pages of the New Testament that God maintains any promises for the Jewish people which are not available for all who trust in Christ, not even promises regarding the land of Israel. In fact, unbelieving Jews (and Gentiles) are entirely outside of God’s covenant and promises, for these promises are only accessible through faith. Nor do I believe that any promises await any future fulfillment exclusively or primarily for the Jewish people, for there really is no Jew or Gentile in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). I realize that the statements I’ve just made are a huge can of worms for a lot of people. Good! Let us all dig deep on these things for ourselves, and not just blindly follow popular teachers and teachings.

When time allows, I hope to write much more extensively on this very subject, for there are so many things to consider. In the meantime, for anyone who is interested, one excellent resource is  a series of presentations based on Stephen Sizer’s book, “Zion’s Christian Soldiers? The Bible, Israel, and the Church.” Sizer has kindly made this series available online for free (the book is available for purchase here). I have read portions of this series and what I’ve read so far is thorough, well-thought-out, and simply an excellent study. I plan to do a lot of interaction with Sizer’s writings once I do write  further on this subject here at this blog. The following are some of the questions I wish to tackle at that time (feel free, though, to discuss them even now):

-According to the New Testament, who are God’s chosen people today? Does God have one chosen people, or two?

-Are all Jews part of God’s chosen people, as is taught in many Christian circles, or only those Jews who have put their faith in Christ (alongside of all non-Jews who have done the same)?

-Do Jewish Christians (known as “Messianic Jews”) have a higher place in the kingdom of God than non-Jewish followers of Christ? Does Scripture say that this will ever be the case?

-Does Genesis 12:3 mandate that Christians show favoritism toward the modern nation of Israel, the policies of that nation, and/or toward the Jewish people as a whole? Does Genesis 12:3 have anything at all to do with the modern, geopolitical nation of Israel? How about Zechariah 2:8, where Jerusalem is said to be “the apple of God’s eye”?

-Do the Jewish people have a divine right to the land of Israel? Is this idea affirmed anywhere in the New Testament? If yes, where? If no, why not?

-How do the inspired authors of the New Testament apply Old Testament passages which were originally addressed to “the house of Israel”? Are they applied in the NT to the Jewish people as a race, or to the Church (which is made up of believing Jews and Gentiles, with no distinction)? Are they ever spiritualized in any way by the authors of the NT?

-Were the promises given to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament conditional or unconditional? Do they apply to the modern, political nation of Israel? If so, to whom were they applied from 70 AD to 1948 when there was no established nation known as Israel?

-The land promises in the OT were said to be eternal/everlasting/perpetual, as was the covenant of fleshly circumcision, and as were also numerous temple-based rituals. How does the NT deal with the non-land covenants/statutes which were said to be eternal? Should the eternal land promises be dealt with in a different manner? If so, why?

-How does the New Testament speak of earthly Jerusalem in comparison to heavenly Jerusalem, and what are the implications of this contrast?

-Has the New Covenant (promised, for example, in Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36) fully arrived yet? Or is its full arrival awaiting the future salvation of the entire nation of Israel (or all  surviving Jews) at the Second Coming of Christ? This is what dispensationalism teaches.

-Are you sure that what you have been taught regarding the Jewish people, the nation of Israel, and other related issues resembles what has been taught throughout Church history, especially prior to the advent of dispensationalism (the school of thought developed by John Nelson Darby in the 1830’s)?

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With God On Our Side” is available for purchase on Amazon.com, where several helpful reviews of the film can also be seen.

All posts on the subject of Christian Zionism can be found here.