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Zionist Christians’ war on the true meaning of Christmas

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

Graffiti on the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, December 16, 2010. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Graffiti on the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, December 16, 2010. (photo: 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.

Palestinians hold a Catholic mass as a weekly nonviolent witness against the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank village of Beit Jala, September 7, 2012. If completed as planned, the wall would cut off the Cremisan monastery from the Beit Jala community, blocking access to one of the Bethlehem area's last remaining green spaces, and a source of employment for area residents. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Palestinians hold a Catholic mass as a weekly nonviolent witness against the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank village of Beit Jala, September 7, 2012. If completed as planned, the wall would cut off the Cremisan monastery from the Beit Jala community, blocking access to one of the Bethlehem area’s last remaining green spaces, and a source of employment for area residents. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

In their Christmas email, CUFI claims that BDS supporters are: “Israel haters” who are “hoping you’ll not know that the freest Arabs in the Middle East are the Arab citizens of the Jewish State of Israel.”

While denying the persistent discrimination faced by Palestinian citizens of Israel and entirely ignoring the injustices faced by those living in the occupied territories, they also ignore fellow Christians. Some 3,000 Palestinian Christians, including the heads of 13 historic Holy Land denominations signed the Kairos Palestine Document, which calls for: “boycott and disinvestment as tools of nonviolence for justice, peace and security for all.”

Unlike the straw man “haters” of CUFI’s rhetoric, Kairos Palestine’s call for BDS is rooted in values of liberating love: “These advocacy campaigns must be carried out with courage, openly and sincerely proclaiming that their object is not revenge but rather to put an end to the existing evil, liberating both the perpetrators and the victims of injustice.”

Zionist Christians participating in the annual Jerusalem March offer their support to Israeli troops along the parade route, October 4, 2012. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

South African Zionist Christians participating in the annual Jerusalem March offer their support to Israeli troops along the parade route, October 4, 2012. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

If only groups like CUFI reflected the best teachings of their faith as clearly. Instead, they have made an idol of the modern state of Israel. They may mention Jesus every now and then, but they rarely quote him. Benjamin Netanyahu gets a lot more airtime. “Netanyahu” even returns more than twice as many search results as “Jesus” when searching their web site.

I was not surprised to learn — from the extremely conservative Christian magazine Charisma of all sources — that CUFI’s executive director, David Brog, is “said to run CUFI like a political campaign.” The report goes on to say that, “[o]ne by one, the higher-profile Christian leaders who helped [John] Hagee start CUFI are dropping off as the organization becomes more focused on political lobbying.”

Unfortunately, CUFI and similar groups have convinced many Americans that “blessing Israel” means rubber-stamping every policy of its increasingly right-wing governments. This includes a message filled with military imagery to “stand with Israel” during last summer’s assault on Gaza, with talking points like, “Israel must not be condemned for doing what any responsible government would do to protect its citizens from terror.” Another message demands, “[t]ell President Obama to stop blocking weapons to Israel!” And yet another email cites 64 Israeli soldiers killed and describes a CUFI-sponsored solidarity visit by pastors to Jerusalem, Sderot and Mt. Herzl. None of these messages even mention the 2,200 Palestinians killed in Gaza, most of them civilians.

A Zionist Christian attends a "Stand with Israel" rally in Boston, August 7, 2014. The rally came in the midst of an Israeli military offensive that had thus far killed nearly 2,000 Palestinians, including at least 1,400 civilians. At the same time, three civilians in Israel and 64 soldiers had been killed by Palestinian militants.

A Zionist Christian attends a “Stand with Israel” rally in Boston, August 7, 2014. The rally came in the midst of an Israeli military offensive that had thus far killed nearly 2,000 Palestinians, including at least 1,400 civilians. At the same time, three civilians in Israel and 64 soldiers had been killed by Palestinian militants. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

One need not be a Christian to recognize that Christmas celebrates the arrival of the Jesus who preached, “blessed are the peacemakers”, “love your enemies”, compassion for “the least of these,” and who taught his followers to pursue “justice and the love of God.” But as a Christian, I am compelled to question the priorities of fellow believers who have placed loyalty to the government of Israel above the life, teachings and example of Jesus.

A Palestinian pastor friend put it this way: “my biggest challenge with Christian Zionism is that it doesn’t promote peace and it ignores justice.”

Where is the Jesus of sacrificial love, peace and justice for all amid the Israeli and American flag-waving and military imagery? I therefore suggest that we stop calling such groups Christian Zionists and instead use the term Zionist Christians, to more accurately reflect their priorities.

The Kairos Document offers a sharply contrasting vision of concern for all life, but will U.S. Christians listen to their Palestinian sisters and brothers?

Through our love, we will overcome injustices and establish foundations for a new society both for us and for our opponents. Our future and their future are one. … We call on the people of Israel to be our partners in peace and not in the cycle of interminable violence.

Finally, as an alternative to the CUFI’s ornaments, I recommend supporting Palestinian Christians in the town where Jesus was born by buying an olive wood nativity like this one from the Bethlehem Bible College gift shop—complete with separation wall to raise awareness among your holiday guests.

Read also:
An open letter to Evangelical supporters of Israel
PHOTOS: ‘Christ at the Checkpoint’ challenges Christian Zionism

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    COMMENTS

    1. Ginger Eis

      The United States and The State Of Israel are and will continue to be the Guarantors of Freedom on earth. The State Of Israel is the sole Guarantor of Freedom for Christians to be Free And Able to Worship as they Choose – In The Entire Middle East! Only in Israel is a Christian able to worship as he/she would in Christian country! That is one of the reasons why I am proud of my Israel. That is why an overwhelming majority of the Christians in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the West support the Jewish State. Indeed, the ethnic cleansing, genocide of Christians and the rapes and sex slavery of Christian women in Muslim (Arab) controlled areas have started. This what some misguided “Christians” woefully fail to understand, while using Christian symbols to fight a political war against the only State that protects Christianity entire Middle East – as much as any other Christian country.

      Listen to Brigette Gabrielle. And weep!

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UX5a9lSG0Rk

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VS0cols_X_M

      Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        Typical nonsense. There are significant Christian communities throughout the Middle East. For instance in Lebanon the President, half the cabinet and half the parliament are Christians. In Jordan “Christians are well integrated in the Jordanian society and have a high level of freedom. Nearly all Christians belong to the middle or upper classes. Moreover, Christians enjoy more economic and social opportunity in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan than elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa. They have a disproportionately large representation in the Jordanian parliament (10% of the Parliament) and hold important government portfolios, ambassadorial appointments abroad, and positions of high military rank. A survey by a Western embassy found that half of Jordan’s prominent business families were Christians. Christians run about a third of Jordan’s economy”. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_in_the_Middle_East)

        Reply to Comment
        • Merav

          aaaah, the stalker brian is at it again….. following Gingi around like the little canine he is….# this time is cutting and pasting from WIKIPEDIA…..hmmmm, lets see if what this little stalker who has no job says is true..

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-54P02dUd_E

          # brian stop copying and pasting lies from other people….

          Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            “Gingi’s” enforcer rides into the night again to protect her honour, but cannot apprehend that Bryan and Brian are two different entities, each with a valid point of view. Your terminology, Gingi, sounds like an STV – though no doubt you are spot on because she talks enough claptrap.

            Reply to Comment
          • Merav

            …..yeah, brian has ADHD, but bryan is a compulsive obsessive stalker….# aaaah brian and bryan: the same canine with two heads….. hilarious! #… keep fooling yourself briayn ……

            Reply to Comment
      • Gearoid

        You are a truly slimy, dishonest, immoral stain on humanity.

        May you repay the suffering you cause in kind.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Ginger Eis

      The United States and The State Of Israel are and will continue to be the Guarantors of Freedom on earth. The State Of Israel is the sole Guarantor of Freedom for Christians to be Free And Able to Worship as they Choose – In The Entire Middle East! Only in Israel is a Christian able to worship as he/she would in Christian country! That is one of the reasons why I am proud of my Israel. That is why an overwhelming majority of the Christians in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the West support the Jewish State. Indeed, the ethnic cleansing, genocide of Christians and the rapes and sex slavery of Christian women in Muslim (Arab) controlled areas have started. This what some misguided “Christians” woefully fail to understand, while calling for BDS against Israel and using Christian symbols to fight a political war against the only State that protects Christians in the entire Middle East – as much as any other Christian country would.

      Listen to Brigette Gabrielle. And weep!

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UX5a9lSG0Rk

      (the 2nd part of the video will follow separately; the first post where both are posted at the same time went down the bottomless pit it seems)

      Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        Just remember 1000 Christian souls are not worth a clipping from a Jewish toenail – though both souls and onychomycosis leave a lot to be desired.

        Reply to Comment
        • Merav

          oh goodie….the anti-semite in brian is coming out gradually again….…oh dear …..

          Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            You are probably right that such remarks are anti-Semitic, but I was not putting forward my point of view but alluding to the words of Rabbi Ya’acov Perin delivered in his eulogy at the funeral of mass murderer Dr. Baruch Goldstein: “One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail.”

            Reply to Comment
          • Merav

            …….your lies convince no one….you sick, little stalker….. ///

            Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            When logical argument fails you, why don’t you resort to personal abuse? And before you respond that I accused the wicked ice witch of talking claptrap – note that I pointed out that Christians were influential, wealthy and respected citizens in Lebanon and Jordan, only for her to repeat her diatribe about Israel being the only Christian-friendly state in the Middle East. Since when has pointing out the follies in people’s fanaticism been stalking?

            Reply to Comment
          • Merav

            …..yeah, brIan has ADHD and brYan is a compulsive obsessive stalker….# aaaah brian and bryan: the SAME canine with two heads protruding from ONE neck….. hilarious! #… keep fooling yourself briayn ……

            Reply to Comment
    3. Josh

      Watch hasbara bot on distraction tour. And sleep

      Reply to Comment
    4. Richard

      Maybe Christian Zionists, or anyone with common sense, are upset that Palestinian Christians like resurrecting Jewish blood-guilt by comparing themselves to the crucified Jesus. Maybe they don’t like that people like you compare Israelis to idol-worshippers-an anti-Semitic trope that you’re apparently stupid enough to repeat explicitly. Here, you’ve shown yourself to be an ignorant fool, which is pitiful for you. Its also sad that imbeciles like you don’t understand that Palestinian Christians are held hostage to Arabism, and basically have to take sides with their Jew-hating Muslim countrymen out of fear. On the other hand, imbeciles like you make Christian anti-Zionism like medieval in its outlook compared to Christian Zionism.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Lo

      If you look at American Jewry, they’re a pretty liberal/progressive bunch, having voted for Barack Obama in higher numbers than any other ethnic demographic excepting African Americans. Long traditions of humanism and secularism within the Jewish community explain why this might be so.

      With Israel lurching every day further to the right wing, with its leaders becoming exponents of right wing shibboleths, I don’t think there’s going to be any huge revival of American Jewry’s affinity for Israel. This leaves Israel’s leaders to try and curry favor from the Christian fringe in America.

      Pastor John Hagee, founder and leader of Christians United for Israel, is hardly what you could describe as a reasonable supporter of Israel or Jews. Remember, this is the man who said,

      “Then god sent a hunter. A hunter is someone with a gun and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter. And the Bible says — Jeremiah writing — ‘They shall hunt them from every mountain and from every hill and from the holes of the rocks,’ meaning there’s no place to hide.”

      That’s right, PM Netanyahu’s biggest buddy in the US is on the record as having suggested that the Hitler was simply executing God’s plan to relocate the Jews into Israel. Moreover, the entire reason Hagee and his group are so gung-ho about getting the Jews into Israel is that they see this as the critical prerequisite for the Second Coming. That is to say, he’s all for you making aliyah provided you eventually convert to the “correct” faith. Those of you who believe that Jews should be Jews wherever they live will just have to be put to the sword.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Sluggo

      This article is just plain desperate.

      Like many elitists, the author believes he knows what is best for other people

      Reply to Comment
    7. Sluggo

      Somebody should educate the 3,000 strong Kairos Palestinian and the silly author that BDS is rooted in anything but love. The idea is to eliminate the only,Jewish state with a scourge of hateful inhabitants who would take advantage of the democracy and end it.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        You sound like a tin-pot dictator castigating democracy because it would destroy his tyranny. Is Israel (“the only democracy in the Middle East”) really frightened of democracy?

        Reply to Comment
        • Merav

          …// you don’t have a job brian….# maybe you should start looking for a job and ……ehhh … never mind;# a grown man without job but always on the internet?……..hmmmm

          Reply to Comment
          • Josh

            By always on the internet=jobless you mean like 24/7 first distraction responders Ginger and Pedro-x?
            Though I wonder if they’re grown in any way.

            Reply to Comment
        • Sluggo

          I am pro-democracy and anti-pRoR

          Reply to Comment
    8. Roberto Bravo

      Your article has jsut reminded me this site on Jewish Liberation Theology: https://theshalomcenter.org/

      Maybe you would like to post something on this.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Victor Arajs

      I approve of Kairos because of its strong stand against Jewish colonization of Palestine. We also need to repeal Vatican II. When the Jews rejected Christ, a New Covenant was issued, and all promises to the Jewish people were transferred to the followers of Christ. Thus, there is no Jewish claim to Palestine in Scripture. Reverend Sizer and Sabeel have courageously brought these facts to the mainstream

      Reply to Comment
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