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Dear fellow American Christians: Speak up against suffering

By Andrew Miller and James-Michael Smith

 

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

—Matthew 5:9

 

We are writing to you, our fellow Christians from the United States, with which the State of Israel has enjoyed a unique relationship since its founding, because we are concerned with the nature of support that many American Christians provide for Israel’s policies.

Like you, we support the right of Israel to exist and thrive, to be a democracy based on principles of justice described in the Law and the Prophets, and to live in peace with its neighbors.

Like you, we feel a deep reverence for the land in which many of the Hebrew prophets, and Jesus himself, lived and spoke.

And like you, we deeply respect the Jewish people for preserving the Hebrew Bible, for the immense suffering that they have valiantly endured, and for so many other reasons.

Unfortunately, this is not enough for many of our fellow Christians. For them, being truly “pro-Israel” seems to mean that one must never suggest that Israelis could do more than they currently do to live in peace with their closest neighbors.

We are concerned that leaders such as Mac Hammond, Gary Bauer, and John Hagee regularly criticize any suggestion that Israel’s policies could take better account of the rights of Palestinians living within the territories that Israel occupied in 1967. It disheartens us that such leaders often justify discrimination against Palestinians by painting all of them as terrorists. While violence against innocent civilians is a major concern, statistics show that the vast majority of Palestinians have nothing to do with it.

It troubles us that we cannot tell from the public rhetoric of such leaders if they really believe that Palestinians, like Israeli Jews, are human beings made in the image of God, and therefore worthy of the same fundamental rights. It concerns us that such voices regularly accuse anyone who advocates for the creation of a sovereign state of Palestine that will live in peace with Israel as being “anti-Israel”, “hostile” to Israel, or worse.

Please consider organizations such as B’Tselem, Machsom Watch, Yesh Din, and Gisha.

Each is run (primarily or fully) by Israeli Jews. It is unreasonable to accuse these organizations of being “hostile” to their own country. Each has taken painstaking care, over many years, to document and protest widespread violations of the rights of innocent Palestinians by the Israeli military and/or settlers in the West Bank and Gaza. These violations include severe restrictions on movement; systematic theft of land, water, and other resources; arbitrary detention of children; torture, and many others.

To the extent that self-critical human rights organizations like these flourish within Israel, they are one indication that Israel is a robust democracy. Along with millions of other Christians around the world, we very much want this democracy to continue to exist and to thrive.

But the fact that Israel consistently oppresses innocent Palestinians in the occupied territories can’t be ignored. There is simply too much documentation.

Part of the reason that there is so little discussion of the rights of Palestinians among American Christians seems to be that many believe that the Bible tells us to provide unwavering support for Israel’s policies, regardless of how it actually treats non-Jews. One serious problem with this view is that it ignores the fact that the government of Israel, like any other government, is composed of human beings who might be capable of making mistakes.

Another problem is that this view misrepresents the focus of the Bible. It is based on prophetic passages that are difficult, if not impossible, to interpret with precision, but it ignores straightforward passages such as the following:

 

For the LORD your God… shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

—Deuteronomy 10:17-19

 

Perhaps the biggest problem with such views, however, is that they force many American Christians to avoid showing solidarity with the Palestinian Christians living in the occupied territories.

If one listened only to American Christians, one might never realize that there has historically been a large Christian presence among Arabic-speaking Palestinians. Here are some of the basics of this history. Looking at the data, a number of facts become clear.

First, tens of thousands of Palestinian Christians still live in the West Bank. Many live in the area around Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ.

Second, like most Palestinians in the West Bank, Christians there suffer various forms of oppression from the Israeli military occupation.

Third, the number of West Bank Christians has fallen dramatically since 1967. They cite the occupation of the West Bank as largely responsible for the mass exodus of Christians from their ancestral homes.

Fourth, some of these Palestinian Christians are evangelicals, and they accept precisely the same doctrinal statements as American evangelical Christians.

Fifth, American evangelicals have, as a community, done little to advocate for the rights of Christians living in Bethlehem and the rest of the West Bank. Rather, the most visible efforts of evangelical leaders have been directed at labeling people who speak up for the rights of Christians (and other Palestinians) as “anti-Israel,” “hostile” to Israel, etc.

In this and other ways, American Christians have contributed to discrimination against tens of thousands of Christians in the Holy Land, and have contributed to the exodus of tens of thousands more Christians from their ancestral homes.

This situation is intolerable. Very soon, one of us will be traveling to Bethlehem to participate in a conference hosted by Palestinian evangelical Christians who live there. It breaks our hearts to participate knowing that our community has contributed to the suffering of our Palestinian Christian brothers and sisters who live so close to Christ’s birthplace.

If we could express our hearts to you, our fellow American Christians, we would say the following: First, please stop spending so much time trying to apply with precision the imagery and symbolism of the Bible, particularly the Apocalyptic passages. It is good to support Israel’s right to flourish, but it is also good to do so without trying to help God bring about the battle of Armageddon. God does not need our help to fulfill his predictions.

Second, please pay attention to those things that God wants us to pay attention to. The prophets of old make it clear that God wants us to focus on seeking impartial justice, supporting the disadvantaged, seeking true shalom, and other such actions, which they emphasized over and over again.

Finally, when you see American Christians justifying discrimination against innocent Palestinians (Christians or otherwise), speak up. Explain to them why this is unhealthy for us, as well as for both Palestinians and Israelis. We are showing friendship to no one when we allow the oppression of the innocent to go unchallenged.

In closing, please consider again the following passages from the Biblical Prophets. They are only a small sample among many, many others that speak the same message.

 

And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

—Leviticus 19:33-34

 

For if… you do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, or walk after other gods to your hurt, then I will cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.

—Jeremiah 7:5-7

 

Therefore, because you tread down the poor

And take grain taxes from him….

Afflicting the just and taking bribes,

Diverting the poor from justice at the gate…

Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD!

For what good is the day of the LORD to you?…

But let justice run down like water,

And righteousness like a mighty stream.

—Amos 5:11-24

 

James-Michael (“JM”) Smith is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and author of “Cleansed and Abiding: A Proposed View of Christian Perfection.” He is the founder of Disciple Dojo (JMSmith.org), an ecumenical discipleship resource ministry.

Andrew Miller is an American Christian living in Bordeaux, France. He blogs (sometimes) at http://andrewsbethlehemblog.wordpress.com/ and elsewhere.

 

Read Also:
Dear liberal American Jews: Please don’t betray Israel 

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  • COMMENTS

    1. XYZ

      To claim the decline the the Christian population in the West Bank is due to the occupation is out outright falsehood if this is implying that Israel is somehow persecuting the Christians. Christian populations are in decline throughout the Muslim Middle East. This is due to problematic Muslim with all minority groups. The Jewish populations of the Muslim countries have practically disappeared, and, as I said, Christian populations are under pressure. This is the problem in the whole Muslim-majority region, not the occupation. To claim otherwise is nothing more than anti-Israel propaganda.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Georg

      @XYZ: you are deluded. I take it you have never met a Palestinian Christian. Failing that, I suggest you start here: http://www.kairospalestine.ps/

      Reply to Comment
    3. Myron Joshua

      Besides the Israeli NGO’s you list, it might be noted that Israeli Jews living in settlements on the West Bank, share many of the same concerns as those listed in this article.
      However justified the motivation for creating and applying various policies in the West Bank may have been, it is necessary to always reflect how those policies and their implementation may have taken us hostage and led us on a road that is both counterproductive and immoral.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Myron Joshua

      Of course my initial sentence should read..”it might be noted that **there are** Israeli Jews living in settlements…”

      Reply to Comment
    5. Andrew Miller

      In describing why Christians have left Bethlehem and elsewhere, we thought it was important to listen to those Christians. That is what we did.

      Reply to Comment
    6. XYZ

      I am well aware of the claims of Muslim spokesmen that say that “Muslims hold Jews, Judaism, Christians and Christianity in the highest regard” but the situation on ground level is different. When Pope John Paul II visited the country, he held an outdoor mass in Bethlehem. The local Muslims turned the mosque loudspeakers on full blast to drown out the Pope. When he visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, he was given a tongue-lashing by the local Muslim leader.
      In Nazereth, which is supposed to be a model for Christian-Muslim brotherhood, the Muslims tried to build a mosque across the street from famous Church of the Annunciation that would tower over it in order to show who is boss. The Vatican protested and Israel cancelled the building permit.
      Israeli Left-wing blogger Seth Freedman who appeared in the “Comment is Free” blog section of the British “Guardian” newspaper which is quite critical of Israel visited Nazareth and he saw a big green sign opposite to the entrance of the Church and the sign had a message in both Arabic and English from the Qur’an stating something to the effect that those who don’t believe in Islam will burn in h—. This doesn’t sound very friendly or neighborly-like.
      Former journalist Matt Beynon-Rees who is strongly pro-Palestinians wrote a current-events-based novel called “The Collaborator of Bethlehem” (available at Amazon.com) about the very difficult situation the Christians of the West Bank, particularly Bethlehem, are in.

      The Christian population of Bethlehem has declined preciptously due to Muslim pressure . No doubt the unstable situation in the West Bank does affect them negatively, but their leaving the area is typical of what is happening to Christians around the Middle East (remember the civil war in Lebanon?). Israel is not to blame for this.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Xavier Kassis

      XYZ and the zionist-christians:
      I am a christian Palestinian from Beit Jala, and I tell you and others this. We have lived and continue to live in peace with our fellow muslim palestinians and before that the jewish palestinians.
      Things were actually great before the arrival of the zionist european settlers, who came with a racist nationalist agenda to reak havoc and created a rift between the different peoples of Palestine. No less than pain and suffering have been the result of the creation of the fake nation state of israel, which has nothing to do with the ancient biblical israel.
      You are a disgrace to christianity, and for supporting a racist nationalist agenda hidden behind religion and the holy bible. You instead, should support your fellow christians in Palestine, let God do whatever he intends to do without your dirty work, and speak up for injustice instead of being a part of it.

      Reply to Comment
    8. AYLA

      Thank you for this important piece; we have to share it to make sure it reaches its right audience. The Christian Right, or Evangelical movement in the states, has grown in political power so much since I left the States for Israel only two and a half years ago that I no longer recognize the political discourse which seems closer to what I remember as Reality TV.
      *
      I was on a plane from the States back to Israel last week with a group of American Believers, theological students, about 18-20. They were so wide-eyed, so excited, I couldn’t help being excited for them. I told them all about how they’d swim in the (polluted) Jordan River where Jesus was baptized, and in the (shrinking) Sea of Galilee where He walked on water, and how the Stations of the Cross aren’t exact because that wasn’t ground level in Jesus’ time, but He did walk on those very same Stairs of Ascension, and how I recommend walking through the hillsides of Bethlehem to really feel where Jesus was born and lived, since really, that dugout in the ornate church is a far cry from a manger… The guy sitting next to me told me what a blessing it was to talk to me; how excited he was (and I believe him, since he got up no shortage of 20 times, and I was on the aisle). Then he said to me: “I have a question! Can I volunteer in the Israeli Army? Because I’d really like to do that!” I wish I could tell you that I asked him why. That I challenged him. But it’s a long flight… All I managed to do was change my tone when I said: I don’t know. Probably…

      Reply to Comment
    9. AYLA

      XYZ–that’s pure propaganda about Palestinian Muslims being in any way against Palestinian Christians. I know many of both, and they feel solidarity as Palestinians; religion is not an issue between them.

      Reply to Comment
    10. AYLA

      JM/Andrew: I may as well be the first to say it: we’re not such a robust democracy… However, I appreciate that I am not the intended audience for this piece, and your point is that you support a society in which these voices are possible. (even if it has become a crime to donate to them… and even if price tag attacks are precisely in response to their work… but anyhow… plus, all that speaks, in a way, to your core argument about how to best be a friend to Israel).

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    11. Comment deleted

      Reply to Comment
    12. Jazzy

      Not that it will make any difference in the long run, but this whole anti-Hagee, anti-Christian Zionist thing among Protestants tends to dredge up old anti-Semitic tropes related to deicide and supersessionism. Sabeel illustrates the point quite well. Mature, reasonable Protestants understand that appealing to Christians to oppose Israel on religious grounds is playing with fire. There’s way, way too much baggage there for this approach to turn out well. Disavow Christian Zionism – ok. But then recognize that making the conflict religious at all is a problem.

      Reply to Comment
      • Rako

        Superseding something can mean two things: that the new thing adds onto an old thing (like an amendment adds onto a law) or that the new thing replaces the old one. There is nothing inherently bad in proposing that you have a religion or a religious movement that adds onto or changes what is already there. In fact, religious reforms are often needed.

        So simply because someone is Christian and has a religion based on peace and universalism hardly means that it is going to promote conflict. If people were more devoted to religious peace principles we would have less fighting for sure.

        Reply to Comment
    13. Andrew Miller

      Jazzy, there is a lot that I agree with in your comment.

      In my opinion, religion should play no role in determining or choosing sides in the conflict. Rather, the role of Christianity and other religions should be focused on persuading and helping all involved to make progress towards justice and peace.

      Platitudes? Yes. But that is still what I think.

      Reply to Comment
    14. aristeides

      Isn’t it convenient that there are so many old antisemitic tropes lying around in the sludge for Zionists like Jazzy to dredge up whenever they want to derail the call for justice.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Jazzy

      Andrew: In the words of Norman Finkelstein, “I loathe the disingenuousness.” From your blog, it looks like you oppose the separation barrier, and you’re affiliated with an organization that opposes Zionism. You obviously do not agree with my comment about keeping religion out of politics in Israel/Palestine – you have political positions and you’re using Christianity behalf of those position, PERIOD. Unfortunately, you’re not the first slitherly individual to pull the same bogus crap on +972. FYI, you’re not fooling anyone buddy. The Christian Zionists are fanatics, but at least they’re HONEST about what they want and how they use religion. The same cannot be said for your or your colleagues. You are very much using religion to make a political case and you know it.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Jazzy

      In the end, I don’t think Sabeel or its friends are going to do Israel any damage. All you’re going to do is piss off American Jews and create problems between Jews and Christians in America and elsewhere in the West. But maybe that’s the point.

      Reply to Comment
    17. KMS

      Assertions without examples are not convincing. You make assertions that Pro-Israel Christians will label as “anti-israel” anyone with your views. I’ve never heard it and you don’t give examples. I could make an equally non-convincing argument that I’m troubled that those with your views call people like me ignorant and misguided and we support oppression. It’s kind of like name calling. Also, you assert that Hagee et al criticize ANY criticism of Israeli policies. Is that true, or is it you putting words in their mouths? Since you don’t provide examples, how are we to know? I love what you’re trying to do, and appreciate your peaceful tone. But I didn’t find your argument persuasive because ALL of your assertions don’t have examples, and you make some broad brush assertions about Pro Israeli Christians in USA. You say that most evangelical leaders label those with your views as hostile and anti-israel. Is that true? Examples? Or are you putting false words in your adversaries’ mouths so you can then knock down their arguments? This is either a great piece or one big strawman. You’re either right and the facts or on your side, or you’re being dishonest about the other side. Your lack of examples leaves me unable to tell which.

      Reply to Comment
    18. AYLA

      Andrew–Baptism by fire? ;)
      *
      Aristeides–I remember when you first started commenting here and I thought you were really interesting. Somewhere along the way, you took on this self-righteous place on your own, personal throne (in front of a computer?), and even though your and I are usually on the same side of the fifty yard line of any given issue, I find your insults and labeling so off-putting that I don’t know how anyone here could hear anything you have to say. This often renders what I know can be interesting ideas of yours, mute.

      Reply to Comment
    19. POLTERGEIST

      Quoting Soros-funded organizations to accuse Israel of persecuting Christians won’t get you very far. The Christian population of Bethlehem began dwindling after Israeli withdrawal, because Israel was no longer able to protect them against their Muslim “brethren”. If Israel persecutes Christians, how do you explain the fact that Israel is the only country in the Middle East where the Christian population has increased? Christians are being persecuted and murdered in Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan and you pick on the only country where they are safe. It is not mainstream evangelicals who are contributing to the suffering of your coreligionists, it is the likes of you!

      Reply to Comment
    20. Bill Pearlman

      You know who has real problems, the Christians in all the Moslem countries. Not Israel. But these authors share the “mondofront” syndrome. If the Jews aren’t the bad guys then it didn’t happen

      Reply to Comment
    21. Larry Linn

      Social commentator and former alter-boy George Carlin sums it up, “Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time! But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can’t handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more.

      Reply to Comment
    22. Lauren

      I grew up as Christian Protestant. All I was taught was God and Jesus are loving. I never was learned to hate another religion or different people.
      I do notice that Christianity as a rule is constantly mocked and discredited. We have our own issues with anti-Christian propaganda here in the US too.
      I will not visit Bethlehem because of the religious wars going on in Israel. Priests and churches have been spat upon and cursed by Jews. The recent “price tag” attack on the church was outrageous. This last Christmas in NYC, Christian statues all over Brooklyn were spray painted black.
      I just don’t understand the motives and message. Why are we allowing religion to take place over reason? I don’t care if someone wants to pray to a catcus…… just don’t insist that others are less than because they choose another path of spirituality.

      Reply to Comment
    23. KMS, I’m curious if you’ve ever interacted with Christian Zionists and if so, how often? As an evangelical living in the Bible Belt of America who teaches in Churches regularly I can assure you that criticism of Israeli policy or treatment of Palestinians is often met with much skepticism (at best) and sometimes outright labels of “anti-Semitism.” (For instance, look at the reactions to things like Jimmy Carter’s book or Porter Speakman’s film, etc.) Support for Palestinian rights is often seen as capitulating to a “liberal U.N. agenda” or other “unbiblical” worldviews. This has been my own personal experience. I discuss it more here:

      http://jmsmith.org/blog/this-is-why-bad-theology-matters/

      and here:

      http://jmsmith.org/blog/stand-with-israel/

      Poltergeist, the reason the Christian population is increasing in Israel has much to do with the wonderful efforts of many Messianic brothers and sisters and their work in bringing knowledge of Messiah to their fellow Jews. But while this is welcomed and a cause for great celebration, it does not negate the plight of our Christian brothers and sisters who daily endure life behind the wall, nor does finger-pointing at how bad other Muslim countries treat Christians within their borders.

      Reply to Comment
    24. POLTERGEIST

      JM SMITH, do you have any statistics to prove that the Christian population in Israel is increasing thanks to missionary activities? Or are you relying on rumors just like the entire human rights industry?

      Reply to Comment
    25. star bright

      I have to admit that this article did not sit well with me. In fact, it reminded me of a very disturbing experience I had a few years ago, when a good friend of college came to do solidarity work in Palestine with the Christian Peacemakers Team. At first, she was excited to see me (an Israeli Jew) and we made plans to get together in east Jerusalem and hang out. But, very quickly, she withdrew and basically stopped answering my calls. It was only much later, at our college reunion, that she confided to me the reason for her sudden withdrawal: apparently, her CPT colleagues made her feel uncomfortable/uneasy about hanging out with her Israeli Jewish friend. The way she expressed it, it’s not that there was *outright* anti-Semitism, but there was a kind of shared discomfort about Jews in general, and Israelis in particular.

      I have to admit that I was shocked to think that people who claim to be “peacemakers” would actively try to dissociate – even marginalize – one of the populations involved in the conflict.

      When I read your post, all of these memories came rushing back to me. Perhaps you don’t intend this, but everything from the title of the post (addressed singularly to Christians) to the content of your post (which ignores all of the interfaith solidarity work that happens) made me recall my friend’s summation of her CPT experience. As such, I can’t help but be distrustful of this post, and the communities it claims to represent (as well as those it intentionally or unintentionally excludes).

      Reply to Comment
    26. Andrew Miller

      Star Bright, thank you for your thoughtful comment. I am sorry that the article reminded you of negative experiences.

      Speaking personally, I am proud to have Israeli Jewish friends. It was these friendships, in fact, which created the chance to publish the article here. In addition to going to the conference in Bethlehem (please see the link in the article), I am very much looking forward to meeting Israeli friends during my trip, too.

      Also, for me personally, I think that is important to speak up for *anyone* who is oppressed. Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist, Arab, non-Arab, whatever. Our main point in speaking to American Christians is this: not only it is inconsistent for us to be indifferent to injustice, but it may be thought to be especially inconsistent when those to whom we are indifferent share our beliefs.

      Reply to Comment
    27. star bright

      Andrew Miller, thanks for your comment. As I maybe mentioned, the story with my friends CPT experience happened a few years back, and perhaps it is really not so representative anymore (I certainly hope this is the case, as I strongly believe in solidarity work in general, and see a particular usefulness for interfaith solidarity work).

      I do think that, for many of us, our faith guides our ideas of justice, solidarity, and peace. And I understand that, in writing this article, you were especially keen on opening that conversation in the American evangelical community. This should be commended. But I would also just humbly suggest that, while you’re here, it might be worth being mindful if any implicit anti-Jewish sentiments do surface among at least some of the Christian activists working here — since, although I hope my friend’s story was an exception and not the rule, I can’t help but fear otherwise…

      Reply to Comment
    28. Poltergeist, I do not have any hard statistics; I’m taking the word of my Messianic Jewish friends who minister in Israel. If they are wrong, so be it. It doesn’t really change the point of anything said thus far.

      Star Bright, I echo Andrew’s words above. I’ve found that there is much distrust on both sides. I don’t think this will ever be overcome until both sides realize that neither are entirely blameless or righteous. It’s hard to not become defensive when discussing issues where one’s culture/people have done wrong (I’m a white guy living in the South in America, after all…my people have done terrible things to others in history after all). But American Christians in general are used to seeing Palestinians as “Bad/terrorists” and Israelis as “Good/heroes”. I believe this narrative, more than anything else, hinders any lasting peace and true reconciliation…just as the idea circulating among many Arab states that all Israelis are “evil/imperialists” and all Palestinians are “righteous/innocent”.

      Truth is almost always in the middle somewhere.

      Reply to Comment
    29. Jazzy

      JM: Give me a break dude. You really think what American Christians think about Palestinians hinders lasting peace “more than anything else”? What about the Israeli fear that giving up the West Bank is an intolerable security risk? What about the taboo against Palestinians renouncing territorial claims to Israel? I’m glad at least, that you’ve moved beyond your Bible quotes and admitted what you’re really interested in doing – making Palestinians look better and Israelis worse in the eyes of American Christians.

      Reply to Comment
    30. XYZ

      JM Smith-
      There are something like 12 million Jews and 1 BILLION Christians. There were actually several million more Jews about 70 years ago. Pogroms and Holocausts carried out by people who had come from a Christian background had a lot to do with decreasing that number considerably. Don’t you think that it is a bit insensitive to carry out missionary activity in order to reduce our depleted numbers even further, just when we are getting back on our feet after 2000 years of persecution?

      Reply to Comment
    31. Jazzy

      +972: just a thought – probably worth checking out ppls’ myspace pages before you publish their stuff, just to make sure they haven’t posted abortion ‘death sentence’ cartoons complete with talking fetus and doctor holding a vacuum cleaner. I assume the goal is find Christians who are LESS fanatical than Christian Zionists are.

      Reply to Comment
    32. “Don’t you think that it is a bit insensitive to carry out missionary activity in order to reduce our depleted numbers even further, just when we are getting back on our feet after 2000 years of persecution?”

      This assumes that Jews who embrace Yeshua as Messiah somehow become less Jewish. I reject that line of thinking completely.

      Reply to Comment
    33. Jazzy

      ohhhhhh, JM is one of these people…now I get it. Yeah, you, the pro-Palestinian, pro-life, creepy/douchey myspace profile guy are the person to tell Jews whether 2000 years of Christian persecution makes being a Jew-for-Jesus a non-Jewish thing to do. Its a shame for +972 (1) that they don’t screen out the weirdos better (2) that you’re too brainwashed to realize that saying things like “Yeshua as Messiah” discredits your completely. Better luck next life.

      Reply to Comment
    34. Well Jazzy, at least you aren’t prejudiced and and don’t resort to name calling when engaging in discussion with those who don’t agree with you…

      And people still use Myspace??

      Reply to Comment
    35. Scott

      What a refreshing perspective from this article!

      People in one group often criticize or attack those in another group. But in this article, American Christians are addressing American Christians, inviting them to follow their faith and their scriptures with respect to conflicts in which they play a significant role.

      This article challenges me as an American Christian to love my neighbor as myself. I hope other American Christians are challenged to do the same!

      Reply to Comment
    36. Chris Bowers

      >This assumes that Jews who embrace Yeshua as >Messiah somehow become less Jewish. I reject that >line of thinking completely.

      Really? So if you are to become a Jewish Christian, and under Christianity, you agree with Paul and the rest of Christianity that every cultural custom from circumcision to eating Kosher can be abandoned, that this doesn’t make you “less Jewish”?

      I can hardly see how the abandonment of dozens (hundreds?) of Jewish customs and the adoption of dozens (hundreds?) of new holidays, keeps the Jewishness of people EXACTLY THE SAME. I think that’s a hard case to make.

      Reply to Comment
    37. XYZ

      Who are you, JM Smith, to define for us Jews what our religious and national identity are? There is NO SUCH THING as a “Christian Jew” or “Jew for Jesus”. Such a person has put himself outside the Jewish people. That is not to say we say he can’t come back after rejecting those beliefs, but that is another matter entirely.

      Reply to Comment
    38. Jazzy

      JM: Since you’re too ignorant to understand why ‘Messianic Judaism’ is offensive to 99% of Jewish people, and that you’re actually the bigot here, you’re obviously too simple to understand why you are an embarrassment to the kind of people who run this site – and if they don’t admit it, its only because they’re embarrassed to have made the mistake. Your opinion is worth about as much as 9/11 truther’s. So maybe go write for Al Jazeera – even Richard Falk still gets published there.

      Reply to Comment
    39. AIG

      So now the Israeli left is partnering with Christian missionaries? Do you really want your support to go down to ten people in Shenkin?

      It is important to have your discourse as part of the discussion in Israel, but you keep shooting yourselves in the foot time after time. What next, pro-Palestinian cannibals?

      Reply to Comment
    40. XYZ, I’m sorry you feel that way about fellow Jews who believe differently than you. I’m curious as to whether or not you would consider Jews who are atheists to be outside the Jewish people as well? (I’ve know some Jews who are okay with Jews who believe God doesn’t exist and the entire Torah is fiction, but think Jews who believe Torah is the word of God and Jesus is the Jewish Messiah are somehow no longer Jewish…which is truly puzzling to me.)

      Regardless, the Jewishness of those Jews who follow Yeshua has little to do with the purpose of the letter above, so I’ll leave off commenting any more on it here (Though it is an interesting discussion and certainly one that I would be happy to have with you or anyone else who might be interested in pursuing it over on my blog http://jmsmith.org/blog/an-open-letter-to-american-christians/)

      Jazzy, forgive me if, after your string of insults and personal attacks against me, I don’t put much stock in what you consider “offensive.” Unfortunately, your hateful demeanor and name-calling has alienated me to anything of substance you might otherwise have offered.

      AIG, did you really just compare Christians to cannibals? How does that in any way foster meaningful dialogue or advance the cause of peace?

      Reply to Comment
    41. XYZ

      JM Smith-
      Yes, a Jewish atheist and a Jewish Communist is still a member in good standing of the Jewish people, but a Jew for Jesus or Christian Jew or Jewish Christian is not. I didn’t make this up and this is not only my personal opinion. Judaism is an ancient religious/legal system that goes back to the Bible and has been studied and implemented by a group of people deeply immersed in its study all the way back to Moses, Joshua, the Prophets and the Rabbis down to our day. They defined a Jew the way I told you above. The large majority of the Jewish population of Israel including the secular accept this system and definition.
      I can only tell you that many, probably most Jews view Christian missionary activity among Jews, even the apparently “non-religious” as being very offensive, partly for the reason I gave in my previous comment.
      If you don’t think so, I can suggest you try an experiment with your Palestinian friends…go do Christian missionary work among the Palestinian Muslims….see how they like it. Don’t think we take any more kindly to it.

      Reply to Comment
    42. star bright

      I don’t want to get into a doctrinal argument, but on the whole I have to admit that XYZ’s summation of the argument is pretty inline with what mainstream Jewish theologians would argue. Without really wanting to get into a theological debate (because that’s not what the post was about, and I think that the overall point it was trying to address remains just as relevant) I must say that I think it’s bad form to pronounce judgements on what constitutes Jewish practice without demonstrating a prior understanding of what actual Jewish doctrine and Jewish theologians have to say on the matter… I don’t pretend to be an expert on Christian theology, and thus don’t make statements about what does or does not count as an affront to Christianity. I do think that it would help if the same kind of respect was afforded to Judaism in this case, since I don’t know of any theologians that would suggest that “messianic Judaism” is compatible with Jewish doctrine, halacha, or tradition.

      Reply to Comment
    43. Scott

      May I ask some of you to answer a few questions?

      This article is addressed to American Christians, but most of the readers of this magazine are of course not American Christians. If you are not an American Christian, these questions are for you.

      The authors of this article assume that the opinions and actions of American Christians play a significant role in what happens and who suffers in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Are they right? Do American Christians have a large impact, a small impact, none at all? If any, what kind of impact do they have?

      I invite you to comment more on the topics addressed in the article and less on other topics raised here in the comments.

      Thank you.

      Reply to Comment
    44. XYZ

      Scott-
      There is a large body of belief that Israel is some sort of artificial state, propped up by the US. This view is popular among the Left/progressives in the West, including Jews, and also in the Arab/Muslim world. Included in this is the belief that Israel serves as some sort of appendage of “American imperialism” in order to help America supposedly control the oil states (even though Israel has no oil, nor does it border any of the oil-rich states). Many Muslims view it as some sort of modern “Crusade” meant to overturn Islam in the Middle East.
      That is why people think that supposedly changing the generally pro-Israel views of American Christians would somehow make a difference in Israeli policy.
      OF course, this is all nonsense. The Jews are part of the native population of the country with roots going back thousands of years and with a distinct culture which is not necessarily American and Western. Israeli Jews have a strong sense of indpedence and do not like being dictated to by stronger powers anymore than people of any other independent state would feel in the same situation.
      Of course, Israel does receive important support from the US and does appreciate it, but if the US were to significanty reduce its support for Israel, Israel would continue on in its own path. The fact of the matter was that the US was not a major supporter of Israel before the 1967 Six Day War and was not at all popular in governmental/Establishment circles and yet Israel grew and prospered. Israel is much more established and developed today than it was than and if the US is in decline or should adopt policies not friendly with Israel, Israel would successfully cope with the situation.
      Thus, all the effort to try to convince American Christians not to support Israel or to develop a hostile posture would not make much difference in the long run.

      Reply to Comment
    45. star bright

      Scott: I’m of two minds on your question. On the one hand, I do think that Christian evangelicals expression of unconditional support for Israel does play *some* role in shaping US discourse and policy regarding Israel. On the ground, however, I think orthodox Christianity (e.g. the Greek Orthodox Church, Armenian Orthodox Church, and Syrian Orthodox Church) is much, much, much more relevant to at least everyday Palestinian life (in the sense that these churches fund and support schools and other institutions attended by the Palestinian Christian community). Ultimately, though, I think there’s a good deal of hubris in thinking that any one community – and especially a community located abroad – is actually that powerful. Even the “Israel lobby” is a bit of red herring; yes, they play an important role in shaping U.S. foreign policy, but no they are not the only voices, and no their influence is not so profound as to fundamentally alter the course of events that happen here in Palestine/Israel. Same, I think, goes for American Christians. But ultimately, change here – as elsewhere – will have to come from the ground up, from the people who actually live and struggle here day to day, and from the political institutions we’ve got here.

      Reply to Comment
    46. star bright

      As a side note, I’m surprised no one has commented on this line: “Some of these Palestinian Christians are evangelicals, and they accept precisely the same doctrinal statements as American evangelical Christians.”

      First, in my many years of working and living here (including living for a period in Bethlehem), I have never once met a Palestinian evangelical. I’m not saying that none exist, but they would certainly be the minority. According to Sabeel and Al-Bushra, the plurality of Palestinian christians (51%) are affiliated with the Greek orthodox churches, following by Catholics who follow both eastern and western rites, Armenian orthodox, Assyrian orthodox, and a relatively small group of Protestants. There are also small factions of Coptic, Maronite, Melkite Christians. But, in no survey or demographic study I’ve seen are there any evangelicals listed.

      This doesn’t matter as such to me, at least insofar as the article attempts to address an American audience. But what does bother me is that, in doing so, it feels the need to claim that there are evangelical Palestinians –as if this fact (or rather, non-factual “fact”) should sway people’s opinion.

      I guess what I’m wondering is: does it matter to Americans that the vast majority of Palestinian Christians follow rites and doctrinal teachings from eastern Orthodox Churches? I can’t imagine that it would. But why else would the article try to insinuate that, to the contrary, some Palestinian Christians might actually be evangelical? This is just confusing, and seems unwittingly to suggest that those whose practices and traditions are more foreign might somehow be less deserving of aid and support… And even if that was not the authors’ intentions, it certainly seems troubling to me that they would misrepresent Palestinian Christians, even as they claim to want to support them.

      Reply to Comment
    47. willows

      Sirs,
      You use several scriptures in your “letter” Starting with your opening, Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the sons of God.” By your “letter” I am not sure that you really understand what these verses mean? It would appear that you have used “man’s” understanding of these verses as opposed to correct interpretation.

      My faith in Christ is what dictates my politics for life, I don’t have, nor do I live two separate lives. Christ is my savior 24/7 and that is how I purpose to live my life which does extend over to my political views. God’s word tells us in 2 Peter 1:3&4 “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” If you put your trust in Christ for salvation you can put your trust in His word to teach you all you need to live a life that pleases Him. Pleasing Him is all that matters in this life.
      For those that would choose to not believe in the living God of the Holy Scriptures, not believing does not make Him unreal or His scriptures untrue.
      My prayer is for a lost and dying world, that God would use us, His children, to reach them with the Gospel of Christ and that He would open their hearts and minds to the truth of His word.

      Reply to Comment
    48. Star Bright, the conference that Andrew mentions, which he is attending, is primarily organized by Palestinian evangelicals. Look into Christ at the Checkpoint for more info on them.

      Chris, I’d be happy to put you in contact with some wonderful Jewish friends who could answer your question. Message me on FB if you would like to discuss it more.

      XYZ, I’m familiar with the views regarding the “Jewishness” of Messianic Jews made by many in the wider Jewish community, and I respectfully disagree with them for a number of reasons, both cultural and theological. However, this is not the purpose of the letter above so again if you or anyone else on here would like to discuss it in more detail, I cordially invite you to do so over on my blog so that we can stay on topic here.

      Reply to Comment
    49. Teri

      Amen.

      Reply to Comment
    50. star bright

      JMS: to clarify, since you apparently didn’t read too closely, I didn’t say that there were no evangelicals in Palestine. What I said (and, unlike you, backed up with the available statistics and sources), was that at most they make up a very, very small community — so small of a community, in fact, that they fall under the “other” category of recent demographic tables, because there’s simply not enough of them to give a statistical breakdown. And, I suggested, it was odd that you would overrepresent the presence of evangelical Palestinians. I also asked why this was the case, and wondered if you were perhaps implicitly uncomfortable with or less supportive of the Palestinian christians who belong to eastern Orthodox Churches.
      —————–
      But no more odd, I suppose, then claiming to want to listen to what people of faith (Jewish or otherwise) have to say about their religion, while then dismissing them if they take affront at your praise of those who proselytize. So, just for the record, you are not an expert in Jewish theology, and have no grounds upon which to “respectfully disagree” when it comes to so-called “Messianic Jews.” You may dislike that the conversation has now focused on this rather than the letter, but you brought it upon yourself. And, since you’ve basically dismissed as irrelevant all of the people here who have tried to explain why they are offended by your comments re: proselytization, I can only surmise that your’re only capable of hearing what you want to hear. In which case, it’s pointless arguing with you further.
      I do hope, though, that a representative form +972 will comment on how it was that this got posted here in the first place.

      Reply to Comment
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