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How A Dangerous Mix Of Theology And Geopolitics Have Led To Abandonment Of Palestinians

If anything could explain the unconscionable abandonment of the Palestinians, it is theopolitics—a dangerous mix of misinterpreted theology and geopolitics

United Voices: Hundreds of people marched through London on November 11 calling for a ceasefire in Gaza
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An overlooked aspect of the horrific October 7 attack by Hamas is that it provided Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the pretext he needed to fulfil his dream of occupying the entire Palestine.

On December 30, 2022, Netanyahu dismissed the right of the Palestinians to establish their own independent state by declaring that “the Jewish people have an exclusive and unquestionable right to all areas of the Land of Israel”, and therefore, his government “will promote and develop settlements” in those regions  ... the Galilee, the Negev, the Golan, Judea, and Samaria.” 

Then, at the UN General Assembly on September 22, just 15 days before the Hamas attack, he mocked all UN resolutions favouring an independent Palestine by holding aloft a map of Israel, which included all Palestinian territories, including Gaza and the West Bank. 

Confirmation of Netanyahu’s determination to carry out his cartographic threat came on October 9, when he warned that Israel’s response to Hamas will “change the Middle East.” By October 12, a whopping 6,000 bombs had been dropped on Gaza, killing thousands of civilians, including a large number of children, and displacing over a million.

Palestinophobia

The brutally disproportionate response sparked huge protests across the globe. But despite their peaceful nature, several European nations banned them. In France—the land of liberty, equality, and fraternity—a legal challenge to the ban failed when a court upheld it, citing “the serious risk of disturbing public order” amid “heightened tensions linked to the events in the Gaza Strip with a rise in anti-Semitic acts in France”. Germany too disallowed many rallies “to stop public disorder and prevent public anti-Semitism.” 

In the UK, Home Secretary Suella Braverman (who was sacked subsequently) described the protestors as “hate marchers” and accused the Metropolitan Police of bias following its refusal to ban the November 11 pro-Palestine rally in London. The rally, however, was peaceful and turned out to be one of the biggest non-violent demonstrations in British history with nearly 800,000 joining it to condemn Israel’s bombing of Gaza. 

The attempts to smother peaceful protests in the name of preventing anti-Semitism were not just unjustified, they masked a form of Palestinophobia never seen before—a fact confirmed by the consistent refusal of the West to call for a ceasefire, as a result of which nearly 15,000 innocent Palestinians, including at least 6,000 children, have been brutally massacred, and almost the entire population of Gaza forcibly displaced. There appears to be a refusal on the part of the West to understand that support for Palestine does not amount to backing Hamas.

Theopolitics

If anything could explain this unconscionable abandonment of the Palestinians, it is theopolitics—a dangerous mix of misinterpreted theology and geopolitics.   

Israel’s existential legitimacy flows from the UN General Assembly's Resolution 181(II) of November 29, 1947, which partitioned Palestine into Arab and Jewish states. But Israel also asserts an extra-terrestrial right over its land by proclaiming a mythic promise in the Hebrew Bible to be its holy title deed. This “divine” commitment purportedly given to Prophet Abraham states, “And I (God) will give unto thee (Abraham) and thy seed after thee...all the Land of Canaan (Palestine) for an everlasting possession.” (Genesis 17:8).

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The fact that the Arabs claim their descent through Abraham's first son Ishmael, and the Jews through his second son Isaac, means that even from a Biblical point of view, the “Land of Canaan” should have been the joint property of the “seed” of Abraham—Jews and Arabs.

But the political Zionists who established the state of Israel on Arab land in May 1948, and their ideological successors who have been ruling Israel since then, do not recognise Ishmael as the “seed” of Abraham. They cite Genesis 21:11-12 to argue that God reckoned Abraham’s descendants only through Isaac because Ishmael was the son of a “slave woman.”

This prejudiced view suppresses the simple fact that the compassionate God does not promote communal segregation by dividing humanity into “slaves” and “chosen people.” Besides, in this day and age, we cannot let any kind of primitivism prevail over our civilisational values by allowing a group of people to illegally occupy the lands of another nation by citing scriptural allegories.

According to Old Testament scholar Hermann Gunkel, the book of Genesis—which supposedly contains Israel’s holy title deed—is “inadequate to be the vehicle of history” because it is only “a collection of legends” about Patriarchs such as Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac written centuries after their death. 

Christian Zionism

Anti-Arab racism, therefore, is the outcome of a supremacist interpretation of the Hebrew Bible and the politicisation of its ahistoric mythology, which is still being done by Israeli Zionists with the support of Christian Zionists in the USA.

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In his book Jerusalem Countdown, John Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel, a large pro-Israel organisation in the US with over 10 million members, invokes the concept of “divine election” (based on Romans 9: 7-13) to say that “a loving and gracious God has elected to save some [read the Jews] and elected to allow others [read the Arabs] to be lost for eternity in the fires of hell.” Therefore, explains Hagee, “divine election is offered only to the nation of Israel.” 

But Christian Zionists have their own hidden religious agenda, according to which, in his second coming, Jesus would launch a 1,000-year dominion of “priests of God and of Christ” (Revelation 20:6). As this millennial kingdom would be inaugurated only after the Jews claim their “promised land”, all must be done to help Israelis occupy the entire Palestine.  

This belief is often read along with Matthew 23:39 in which Jesus is quoted as saying, “For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’.” As Jesus was speaking to a Jewish audience at that time, Christian Zionists interpret this statement to mean: for Jesus to make a second appearance, all Jews must be converted to Christianity.

Hagee denied this in a May 2010 article stating: “Some worry that our efforts are motivated by a desire to convert Jews. Others posit that our Zionism is tied to an effort to speed the second coming of Jesus. Both of these allegations are flat wrong.” 

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This unconvincing denial stood disproved when, soon after the October 7 Hamas attack, influential pastor Greg Locke publicly asked Israel to “get a great big missile and blow that wicked Dome of the Rock plumb off where it’s standing right now, so we can get that third temple rebuilt and usher in the coming of Jesus.” The Dome of the Rock is a shrine located at the centre of Islam's third-holiest site, the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

This is not surprising because, in May 2018, The Washington Post analysed, citing a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2003, how half of the evangelicals in the US support Israel because they believe it is important for fulfilling the end-times prophecy. 

It is a strange paradox that, on the one hand, we have the Christian Zionists supporting Israel in the dogmatic hope of one day converting all the Jews to Christianity, and on the other, we see Israeli politicians successfully using the Christian Right in the USA to further their expansionist agenda. The victims of this unholy scheming are the innocent Palestinians who have been rendered refugees in their own homeland, suffering unspeakable atrocities, including periodic massacres.

US Middle East Policy

The US Middle East policy has always revolved around the belief that Israel is a strategic asset to counter Soviet and Iranian influence in West Asia and to keep the Arabs under check for the smooth flow of oil out of the region. In 2013, Joe Biden said that “if there were no Israel, we’d have to invent one” because an “independent Israel, secure in its own borders is in the practical strategic interest of the United States of America.” 

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Not surprisingly, Israel’s annual bilateral trade with the US in goods and services is nearly $50 billion. And, according to USAID Data Services, as of January 2023, in constant 2021 US dollars (inflation-adjusted), total US aid to Israel obligated from 1946-2023 is an estimated $260 billion. Additionally, Biden had asked Congress to approve $14.3 billion in emergency aid to Israel after the October 7 attack.

Is all this support based purely on US geostrategic interests in West Asia? Experts say no. In his 2014 essay Evangelicals, Israel and US Foreign Policy  Scholar Paul D. Miller wrote that American Middle East policy has often been “a haphazard blend of hard-headed realism about oil, idealistic humanitarian concerns and dispensationalist theology. The result has not served American interests well.” 

Miller points out that the American constituency most supportive of Israel is not Jews but evangelical Christians. They influence US foreign policy by arguing that “nations friendly to Israel stand to be blessed by God, while those opposed to it court His wrath,” as mentioned in Genesis 12:3.

Therefore, was it the internalisation of this evangelical dogma that made President Biden reportedly tell Netanyahu a few weeks ago, “I don't believe you have to be a Jew to be a Zionist, and I am a Zionist”? Even Antony Blinken had told Israelis in a recent press conference, “I come before you not only as the United States secretary of state but also as a Jew.” 

On October 25, Haaretz reported that the new House Speaker Mike Johnson is too is “an evangelical Christian whose connections to Israel reflect the movement's deep ties to the Israeli right, which has become increasingly mainstream over the years.” 

The First Amendment of the US Constitution, apart from making it clear that the free exercise of religion cannot be prohibited, states that no religion shall be established by law. Although the USA has no state religion, the foregoing facts show that a certain interpretation of Christianity appears to inform the US West Asia policy. This has proved to be a huge hurdle is the establishment of a sovereign, independent Palestine state alongside Israel.

To paraphrase Miller, the answer to the Palestine question will emerge only when the US seals the porous wall between religion and the state, starts treating Israel and the Middle East as a normal country and region of the world, and develops its foreign policy accordingly.

(Views expressed are personal)
(This appeared in the print as 'The Seeds of the Past')

A. Faizur Rahman is Secretary-General of the Islamic Forum for the Promotion of Moderate Thought (themoderates2020@gmail.com)
(Twitter: @FaizEngineer)

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