Undeniably, next to slavery, one of the greatest blots on the collective American soul is the treatment of the native peoples who once inhabited this land from coast to coast: our systematic displacement and cultural and physical annihilation of whole people groups is not often taught or discussed in detail, since it’s usually the winners who write the history books. But if you want to know how ’twas done, you need look no further than the current occupation of Palestine by the Israelis, sponsored by none other than the good ol’ U.S. of A. The mindset of manifest destiny, the racism that fuels and justifies it, the settling and downright grabbing of native land, the gradual but violent encirclement resulting in devastating poverty, malnutrition and despair– ethnic cleansing in all its hideousness– all of this could be taken from a page of our own history (if we had recorded it).
In 2Chronicles 19, Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, returns from assisting Ahab, the wicked king of Israel, in battle. Jehoshaphat was supposedly one of the “good kings” but he made a grave mistake in allying himself with the house of Ahab, not only marrying his son to that dynasty but also sending military support. The alliance would prove poisonous and almost fatal to the kingdom of Judah for generations to come–indeed it almost got Jehoshaphat killed. Upon his arrival home he receives a rebuke from the prophet Jehu, who asks, “Should you help the wicked and make an alliance with those who hate the Lord? Because of this the wrath of the Lord is upon you….”
Yes, the Lord did promise Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you;” yet this was not a command to enter into treaties with wicked kings like Ahab, who stole land that was not his. In this instance, Jehoshaphat blessed cousin Israel and came under the Lord’s judgment instead. Fancy that.
I remind my fellow Christians of this passage, since it offers a much needed counterbalance to the dispensational belief that has permeated the church through Christian media that the nations will be judged on the basis of how they treat the nation of Israel in the last days (such is their interpretation of the “least of these” in Mt 25:31-46). Actually, Jesus’ reference to the “least of these” is similar to his teaching on “who is my neighbor?” (Lk 10)– the answer there being, quite obviously, anyone who is in need, even an enemy. The Lord does not show favoritism. Anyone who is poor or suffering, therefore, is the “least of these brothers of mine.” And if that is the case, where do the Palestinians fit? Even if we limited the “least of these” to the church, as some do, what about Palestinian Christians?
It is an oft-repeated tragedy of history that the persecuted can just as easily become the persecutor. Such is certainly the case with the church, and with modern day Israel, created as a haven for Jews who have suffered centuries of pogroms and holocaust, but now become one of the greatest threats to peace in the region and a violent oppressor of Muslims and Christians alike. How sadly tragic. As Passover nears when Jews everywhere reenact the story of slavery and deliverance in Egypt, one wonders will their hearts reach out to the suffering Palestinians? “Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice…. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this” (Dt 24:17,18) It is a frequent refrain in the Law of Moses.
Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud government last week showed our Vice-President what it really feels about us and that it is committed in no way to the peace process, only to unbridled expansion on the back of an already despairing native people. Why does a country that is dependent on the US for 4 billion a year in aid, not to mention military supplies, act so arrogantly? Because it can. As one Israeli journalist put it, “To wipe the spit off his face. Biden had to say it was only rain” (an Israeli expression referring to someone too weak to defend himself).
Gen. Petraeus himself contacted the Joint Chiefs of Staff to register his concern that Israeli intransigence endangers American lives in Afghanistan (he failed to mention American lives at home too). That at least was helpful; the Pentagon carries a big stick in Washington. But the only way to restrain Israel in its mad rush over the precipice (and taking us with it) is to establish consequences for such behavior– consequences mean $$$. Such discipline has not been used since the elder Bush Administration but would be in Israel’s own self-interest as well as our own, since their current course is nothing short of self-destructive, stirring up Muslim hatred for both themselves and us worldwide. There can be no real or lasting peace or security for Israel (or the US) without justice.
So massive is the fist of the Israel lobby in Washington, however, (given even greater heft by the economic and political support of much of American conservative evangelicalism) that hope for change is bleak– as evidenced by the Obama administration’s almost pusillanimously apologetic backpeddling after its initial rebukes of Bibi’s behavior. Unless…
If enough Christians start caring enough to register their objections and clamor for a less lopsided and more just approach to peace in the region, both Congress and the Administration will have to take notice. Or let me put it bluntly, fellow believers: you can be either part of the problem and a persecutor of the church (remember Palestinian Christians who suffer just as much as their Muslim neighbors) or you can be part of God’s solution to bring justice and lasting peace to a troubled region. Unless, of course, like many American Christians, you don’t give a hoot about anyone but are hellbent on stirring up Armageddon so Jesus will beam you out of here. In that case, I can only hope for you that the pre-tribulationists are right.
Consider writing to your elected officials today. Tell them Israel does not have to be abandoned to be held accountable and you do not want your hard earned tax dollars used in this way to prop up such an oppressive regime.