One of the most disappointing aspects of the MidEast conflict has been the influence of Christian Zionists on US foreign policy. Israel can do no wrong and that includes building a barrier or wall, which the International Court of Justice (ICJ)will rule on later this week. To its credit, the Israeli Supreme Court has ordered that the wall must be re-routed to reduce hardships on thousands of Palestinians.
People who have seen the wall, such as Israeli Professor and literary critic Dr. Ran HaCohen, are not even sure what to call it. ‘Ghettos? Extra-judicial detention centers? Open-air prisons? A network of cages for humans? I am not sure there is a name for it; I am not sure it has a precedent in human history,’ recently wrote HaCohen.
The Rev. Donald Rooney and the Rev. John J. Podsiadlo, of the Holy Land ! Christian Society, wrote to President Bush on April 8 about their concerns, including the following:
– Religious groups such as the Franciscan Friars, Greek Orthodox monks and Daughters of Charity have had land confiscated, without compensation, for the wall’s construction.
– Students are unable to reach historic Catholic schools in Jerusalem.
– Much-needed social workers and caregivers in Christian institutions are unable to reach their jobs because of the wall.
– Portions of land for an orphanage and part of an indigent senior facility, both run by the Daughters of Charity, will be included in the military zone on both sides of the wall.
In a nutshell, Father Rooney said if construction continues, ‘the Holy Land as we have known it since the beginning will be changed forever.’
Prior to that, Congressman Henry Hyde couldn’t resist voicing his concerns about the wall in his March 25 letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell.
‘I fear that important religious sites will become museums for commercial purposes and will no longer be maintained as places of spiritual worship shared by billions across the world,’ Hyde, a prominent Roman Catholic layman, told Secretary Powell.
He requested Powell’s help in ensuring ‘that the Stations of the Cross are not cut off from each other.’
Setting aside the Christian aspect, good evangelical Christians should be concerned that Palestinian families are being separated, children are not able to get to schools, farmers cannot get to their farmland with ease, and the sick cannot get medical care. Last month, Powell told CNN that a ‘Bantustan’ solution of the Palestinian problem wouldn’t work and that their must be West Bank contiguity in a future Palestinian state. Bantustans were associated with the independent tribal states in South Africa in order to! maintain the Apartheid system. Israeli objections immediately followed Powell’s comments but State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher said at a June 9 press briefing, ‘I don’t know why that would be objectionable. Everybody knows the history and everybody knows what we don’t want to see.’
Well, not everybody and many evangelical leaders are exploiting the general lack of knowledge about the conflict, either for political gain or for religions reasons – or both. Many evangelical Christians believe the Bible promised the Jews the entire Holy Land, including the occupied territories. And most evangelicals also believe the second coming of Christ is contingent upon the full return of Jews to Jerusalem.
In May 2003, conservative Christian activist Gary Bauer spearheaded a letter, signed by other evangelical leaders, which warned President Bush that ‘it would be morally reprehensible for the United States to be ‘evenhanded’ between democratic Israel, a reliable friend and ally that shares our values, and the terrorist-infested Palestinian infrastructure.’ And the Rev. Pat Robertson, speaking on the Christian Broadcasting Network, believed that Bush’s road map to peace imperiled Israel and went ‘against the clear mandate of the Bible.’
Actually, I don’t recall God saying anywhere in the Bible that ethnic cleansing or caging people was His desire for mankind either. And the fact that Palestinian Christians are united with Palestinian Muslims in the goal of liberation shows that their struggle isn’t so much religious as it is human. The wall is another tool of brutality that Palestinians are fighting against together.
Evangelical leaders who warned Bush not to be ‘evenhanded’ in peace negotiations believed that they were speeding up Jesus’ return but it was Christ who said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, ! for they shall be called the children of God.’
Thankfully, we can count on the ICJ to deliver a ruling free of this religious influence.