Thursday, December 16, 2010

In response to the great interest Rev. Malcolm Hedding’s reply to Edwin Arrison’s biased and twisted article has generated among BIG subscribers, we are now sending out the Arrison article itself.

A number of Christian members on our mailing list have pointed out that the words, “Finally, a Christian Response,” were a little unfair, for which we apologise. There are indeed, many Evangelical Christians, in all parts of the world who are constantly speaking up for Israel. As an example, our friend Canon Andrew White, better known as The Vicar of Baghdad, stated recently that, “Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Christians are safe.”

We would like to take this opportunity of thanking all of you who read and pass on the BIG articles and to express our appreciation to those of you who respond personally, we very much enjoy getting to know our readership and renewing contact with old friends.

Best wishes,

Norman & Lola Cohen

Joint Chairmen
The British Israel Group (BIG)

Cape Argus 10 Nov 2010
Christians, our calling is to love and aid the suffering Palestinians

FOR MANY years, Christians have, on the whole, accepted the Israeli narrative in the Middle East crisis.

The first reason for this was compassion for those who suffered in the Holocaust, the complicity of many Christians in that genocide and the need not to make the same mistake again.
This position was solidified with the “Jesus was a Jew” narrative. The question is only now being asked about what kind of Jew he was and what kind of prophet he was, but linking Jesus and Judaism certainly cemented the above relationship.

The “Tours to Israel” movement, of course, also helped with Christians going on so called “pilgrimages” (often really just tours to heritage sites). These tours are conducted by Israeli guides and completely ignore the existence of the Palestinian people, let alone the Palestinian Christians.
It must be one of the biggest ironies that the many Christians who have gone to Israel have rarely interacted with Christians there.

For Christians, who have a strong “we who are many are one body” theology, this is particularly shocking. But slowly, Christians around the world are waking up to the fact that besides the dead stones in Israel, there are also living stones – the Palestinian Christians. The “Jesus was a Jew” narrative is slowly being replaced by “Jesus was a Palestinian Jew” narrative.
This view sees Jesus as not only being on the side of the marginalised but having been one of them.
What this means is that the solidarity Christians felt towards the Jewish people during and after the Holocaust was quite correct – but today the suffering Palestinians are the ones needing our support.
This awakening also leads to other awakenings: Christians always thought that this was simply a fight between Jews and Muslims (and often we took the side of the Jews), but suddenly we are realising that there are also Christians involved, and the Christians are Palestinian. But even if there was not one Christian in Palestine, we would still have to ask: whose side is God on? And inevitably we would come to the conclusion that God is on the side of those who suffer.
Some might want to argue that the Israelis are the ones who are suffering, but that is not the truth.
Suddenly Christians are beginning to question their own faith. What do we mean by the elect people of God? What do we mean by the covenant or covenants? How does the Jesus story intersect with what we call the Old Testament or the Hebrew Bible? There are even deeper questions to be asked: were the promises to Isaac the same as the promises to Hagar and Ishmael? And are we not really all part of one faith tradition that emphasises truth, justice and love? And if we are, to what extent does the situation in Israel and Palestine conform to these values?

The Christians in Palestine have written what is called the Palestine Kairos document, drawing inspiration from the South African Kairos document of 1985. In it they raise many of the questions above, and call for commitment to a theology that leads to life rather than one that leads to death. They also call for non-violent actions against the state of Israel by the international community. The call by Archbishop-Emeritus Tutu to Cape Town Opera is in line with this wish expressed by the Christians in Palestine. The fact is that if we do not want to see even more violence in Israel and Palestine, we need to call for and support non-violent actions. Failing to do so would only encourage those who are using the tools of violence.

What we also have come to realise is that some Christians (in fact many millions of them, based particularly in the US) have a particular understanding of the Bible – and, in some of their most extreme views, there must be a war in Israel to egg on the Armageddon.

This is partly what is behind the call to invade Iran. This is also what is behind the movement to destroy the environment and consume as much as possible. The attitude is this: why care for the environment if it is going to be destroyed in any case in the above scenario, and this destruction is in any case part of “God’s plan for the world”?

Thank God for the Palestinian Christians who have called us to a theology of life and of love.
The Rev Edwin Arrison is an Anglican priest and Board member of the Centre for Christian Spirituality in Cape Town. Comments can be sent


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