The rhetoric of Christian Zionists consistently places loyalty to the modern state of Israel above the example and teachings of the Jesus born in Bethlehem whose birth Christmas celebrates. It’s time to stop calling such groups Christian Zionists and instead use the term Zionist Christians, to more accurately reflect their priorities.
Photos and text by: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org
For the last two years, Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the largest Christian Zionist organization in the U.S., has sent email blasts urging their supporters to fight back against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement by buying Christmas ornaments “Made in Israel.” Or rather, by receiving these ornaments as a reward for a tax-deductible donation. One message urges supporters to “commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ with this symbolic ornament that was made in the land where Jesus was born.”
I don’t blame CUFI for flogging BDS to fill its own coffers. That’s just standard fundraising strategy. What offends me as a Christian is that while exploiting U.S. Christians’ sentimental perceptions of the Holy Land, they ignore the current situation in Bethlehem, they ignore Palestinian Christians, and worst of all, they ignore the Jesus they claim to follow.
Jesus was born in occupied territory. At the time, it was occupied by the Romans. Today, the West Bank town of Bethlehem is virtually surrounded by the Israeli separation barrier, which if completed as planned will confiscate some 64 square kilometers of the governorate’s land as nearby Israeli settlements continue to expand in violation of international law. How dare CUFI mention “the land where Jesus was born” without recognizing the plight of the Palestinian Christians who’ve carried his tradition to the present day?
When groups like CUFI do make a rare mention of Palestinian Christians, it is often to paint them as victims of Islamist persecution. This despite polls showing that Palestinian Christians overwhelmingly cite the Israeli occupation as the primary challenge in their lives.