Since its founding in 2004, the Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has been engaged in an ongoing effort to delegitimize Israel and its supporters, Jews especially, in the United States.
For example, in 2009, the IPMN posted a link to an anti-Semitic video on youtube titled “I am Israel” that attributed a fabricated quote (“We control America”), to Ariel Sharon. And in a 2010 memo, the organization falsely accused American Jewish organizations of an arson attack against the PC(USA) for its criticism of Israel. The IPMN’s anti-Israel (and anti-Jewish) polemics got so bad that the organization took down its Facebook page after complaints from the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.
The animus of the booklet’s authors becomes obvious in a question printed on page 56 of the document, ostensibly to promote “reflection” on the part of the Presbyterians (and other Christians) who use the text in their churches. The question reads:
Should US Christian and Jewish organizations that promote a pro-Zionist US foreign policy be held accountable for promoting violence and oppression toward the Palestinian people?
The text does not provide any specifics as to how Jews and Christians who support Israel should be “held accountable” for their sins, but the implications are ominous and totalitarian.
Three Big Lies
Zionism Unsettled promotes three big lies.
The first big lie is that Zionism as a political movement and Israel as a country have been sheltered from debate, particularly in mainline churches in the U.S.
The second big lie is that Jews were well treated in Muslim countries in the Middle East until the ideology of Zionism arrived in the region in the 19th century.
The third big lie is that Israel is singularly responsible for the suffering of the Palestinians. “Zionism is the problem,” the text states on page 56.
Jewish and Christian Zionism “Sheltered from Debate”
The notion that critics of Israel and Zionism have, up until recently, been stifled or censored is introduced on page nine of the text, which declares that, “This study explores the theological and ethical exceptionalism of Jewish and Christian Zionism, which have been sheltered from open debate despite the intolerable human rights abuses rooted in their core beliefs.”
The notion that the ideological and theological underpinnings of Christian and Jewish support for Israel have somehow been sheltered from debate is simply not tenable and the evidence for this conclusion is present, ironically enough, in the text of Zionism Unsettled itself.
First off, Zionism Unsettled invokes a number of Jewish commentators who expressed concern over Zionism and its impact on Jews and on Arabs. On pages four and five, the authors express surprise at “the number and diversity of Jews who have chosen to speak out about the consequences of Zionism—despite enormous communal pressure not to do so.”
The text continues: “It is a promising development that in our own time, these diverse voices, with increasing confidence and assertiveness, are examining the role of Zionism in reshaping the history of the contested tract of land know by its inhabitants as both Palestine and Israel.”
The report quotes Adam Shatz, author of Prophets Outcast: A Century of Dissident Jewish Writing about Zionism and Israel, as follows: “Jewish critics of Israel have predicted with uncanny precision the steady deterioration of Arab-Jewish relations under Zionism, the seemingly inexorable drift toward territorial expansionism in Israel and the consequent erosion of Jewish ethics.”
The text also reports that “Shatz’s anthology contains essays by Ahad Ha’am (1891), Yitzhak Epstein (1907), Sigmund Freund (1930), Leon Trotsky (1934 and 1937), Abraham Leon (1940), Albert Einstein (1930, 1938, 1948), and Martin Buber, 1948), all predicting and lamenting the inevitable collision of Jewish and Palestinian interests in the evolution of Zionism from a farfetched theoretical framework to a politically empower Jewish resettlement project.”
Later chapters in Zionism Unsettled invoke the writings of Marc Ellis, Mark Braverman and I.F. Stone who have all been critical of Zionism as a movement and of Israel as a country.
So which is it? Has Zionism been “sheltered” from debate within the Jewish community as the authors of Zionism Unsettled assert on page nine? Or has Zionism been assailed by Jewish critics as notable as Sigmund Freund, Martin Buber and Albert Einstein?[i]
Clearly, the later. As Anne Karpf, Brian Klug, Jacqueline Rose, and Barbara Rosenbaum, editors of A Time To Speak Out: Independent Voices on Israel and Jewish Identity (2008, Verson) write, “Jews have fiercely debated Zionism ever since the movement began in the late nineteenth century, and they have argued over Israel from the creation of the state sixty years ago in 1948.”
The problem for the authors of Zionism Unsettled is not that Zionism has been “sheltered” from critique within the Jewish community.
The problem is that Jewish anti-Zionists have lost the argument with their fellow Jews and have lost decisively, a point acknowledged by Thomas A. Kolsky in Jews Against Zionism: The Amer
ican Council for Judaism, 1942-1948. Kolsky reports that in 1948 “there were close to a million members in groups associated with the American Zionist movement, but only 14,000 persons belonged to the Council [which was anti-Zionist].”
The debate took place and Jewish anti-Zionists lost, (and keep losing), the argument with their fellow Jews, no matter how badly their non-Jewish allies have tried to prop them up over the years. And while losing a debate may be demoralizing, it is not the same as being censored.
In sum, Zionism has not been “sheltered” from criticism within the Jewish community.
Not by a long shot.
Debate in Evangelical Protestantism
The assertion that Christian Zionism has been sheltered from debate is easily disproved by looking at the historical record as elucidated by Rev. Dr. Gary Burge, a professor from Wheaton College.
Burge, who has been condemning Christian Zionism since at least the early 1990s has extolled the growing success of the pro-Palestinian organization Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding (EMEU) in a video posted in celebration of the organization’s 25th anniversary, which took place in 2010. The organization has, according to Burge, proven particularly effective in challenging Christian Zionism as a theology.
In the video, Burge speaks about how mainstream Evangelical publishers such as Zondervan and Intervarsity Press who were previously reluctant to publish books critical of Christian Zionism have now addressed the issue in a critical way. “The political and theological framework that dispensationalism gave us has now been critiqued,” he says.
Burge also speaks about how Palestinian Christians such as Elias Chacour, Naim Ateek, Alex Awad and Mitri Raheb have been able to get their message out to Christians in the West. “They recognized that the West was open to hearing them. They gained their voice at the very same period in which EMEU was practicing its own conference building.”
And Burge speaks about how pro-Palestinian activists have been able to use the Internet to get its message out (in part by cyber-squatting on the christianzionism.org url).
Burge speaks about how former President Jimmy Carter, an Evangelical Protestant, has been able to critique Christian Zionism in his books.
He also speaks about the success of movies such as With God on Our Side and Little Town of Bethlehem. “Both of these films have circulated widely in the United States and I believe Europe and they are making a major difference.” (With God on Our Side, Burge reports, was shown to a packed house at Wheaton College.)
Burge speaks about how EMEU activists have been able to appear on radio talk shows and have their writings published in magazines. “Now we are in the wider conversation,” he says.
“For 25 years, Evangelicals have been thinking about [pre-Millenial dispensationalism] in a new way. There is momentum. And EMEU is part of that momentum,” he says.
Judging from Rev. Dr. Burge’s video commentary, which in light of the bibliography posted beneath it, seems pretty reliable (unlike his error-laden text, Whose Land? Whose Promise?) the notion that Christian support for Israel has been “sheltered from debate” is simply false, even in the Evangelical community, where support for the Jewish state has been the strongest, at least since the Six Day War in 1967.
Debate in Mainline Protestantism
In an effort to further demonstrate that Zionism has, up until recently, been “sheltered from open debate” in America’s Christian communities, the authors state on page 40 that in the years after the Holocaust, mainline Protestants did not speak about the plight of the Palestinians for fear of derailing dialogue between Christians and Jews. “Discussion of the fate of Palestinians was taboo—a divisive hazard to be strenuously avoided for risk of offending these interfaith dialogue,” the text states.
And also on page 40, the text states the rules of Jewish-Christian dialogue (which allegedly demanded mainline silence over the plight of the Palestinians) were “broken” for the first time in 2012 when a group of Protestant and Catholic leaders wrote a letter asking Congress to sanction Israel.”
In fact, there has been a well-documented and persistent strain of anti-Zionism in mainline Protestantism for the past several decades.
This strain was present even before Israel was established in 1948. Oftentimes, this anti-Zionism manifested itself through support for the previously mentioned American Council for Judaism, a Jewish organization that opposed the creation of a Jewish state on the grounds that Jews were part of a religion and did not constitute an ethnic group. The Christian Century, lionized this organization in its pages during the Holocaust.
Writing in her book, The Fervent Embrace: Liberal Protestants, Evangelicals, and Israel, (New York University Press, 2012), historian Caitlin Carenen reports that after the ACJ sent a letter to several hundred Christian clergy in 1944, it received a number of supportive letters from Protestant clergy including H. Richard Niebuhr, brother of Reinhold Niebuhr (a well-known Zionist), and Henry Sloan Coffin, president of the Union Theological Seminary of New York. Carenen continues:
American Protestants who were unsure about Zionism, or opposed to it outright, found reassurance from members of the American Council for Judaism that anti-Zionism did not equate with antisemitism. Ardent anti-Zionist Protestants like Virginia Gildersleeve, Dean of Barnard College, argued that Zionism trampled over the rights of Arabs in Palestine to determine their own government and endangered American foreign policy interests in the Middle East. Convinced of the danger that a pro-Zionist position presented to American interests, she would later form the Committee for Justice and Peace in the Holy Land in 1948 to try to counteract the influence of the ACPC [American Christian Palestine Committee] on American foreign policy. She would be joined in this effort by several notable mainline Protestants, including [Henry Sloan] Coffin, Daniel Bliss, Bayard S. Dodge of the American University in Beirut, Harry Emerson Fosdick, and Paul Hutchinson and Garland Evans Hopkins, both of the Christian Century editorial board.
Anti-Zionism remained a force in the mainline community after Israel’s creation. Carenen reports that “Once Israel declared its independence in 1948, some mainline Protestants condemned its aggressively nationalist, secular attitude.” She writes:
One Christian Century article acknowledged that the “harrowing experiences undergone by European Jews during Hitler’s systematic campaign to annihilate them have left such deep scars on world Judaism,” and such scars had undoubtedly contributed to the militaristic
stance of the new nation. But the author deplored this “Jewish toughness,” which he compared to “nazi toughness,” and concluded by asking the reader, “How long will Judaism, with its message of peace, continue to find satisfaction in believing that Israel is feared?”
Carenen summarizes the discussion in mainline Protestantism during the early years of Israel’s existence as follows:
Throughout the first five years of Israeli independence, concern over the plight of Palestinian refugees dominated the discussion of Israel and Zionism in the major mainline Protestant presses. While some journals, such as the Lutheran offered no political statements about the crisis, other journals editorials, feature articles and letters to the editor served as the staging ground for written altercations. The Christian Century consistently highlighted the plight of Arab refugees and voiced its humanitarian concern for them while couching these concerns in decidedly hostile language toward Israel and pro-Zionists, both Jewish and Christian, whom they felt were jeopardizing America’s interests in the Middle East. The editorial board of Christianity and Crisis, divided about the question of Israel, thus printed more varied articles, some positive and others, … decidedly critical of the new state. These divisions reflected intense disagreements among mainline American Protestants over the establishment of Israel and the resulting refugee crisis.
In their effort to prove that Israel has been “shielded” from debate within mainline Protestantism, the authors of Zionism Unsettled also ignore the existence of American Friends of the Middle East, which Carenen describes as the “anti-Israel Christian lobby.” This organization, founded in 1951 was opposed to U.S. support for Israel because of Cold War politics. Support for Israel, the AFME worried, would promote pro-Soviet attitudes in the Arab world. It never got much traction, Carenen reports:
In its public relations campaign, the AFME relied heavily on the assistance of the anti-Zionist American Council for Judaism… Yet, however much the AFME wished to spark a reversal of U.S. policy toward Israel, it suffered from low membership and a lack of financing.
By the 1960s, the pro-Israel American Christian Palestine Committee did not consider it a “major threat to its platform and mission,” Carenen reports. The AFME made its case to American Protestantism and was outmaneuvered by pro-Israel activists. This may be demoralizing to anti-Zionists, but it’s not evidence that Zionism or Israel has been sheltered from debate.
In the 1980s, when the decline of mainline Protestant churches became increasingly manifest, Carenen reports that the focus of these churches “on human rights isssues, particularly concerning Palestinains, coupled with their historic tendency to sever the formation of the modern nation of Israel from biblical prophecy, led to protests against Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza, support for Palestinian statehood, and protest over continued U.S. financial military support for Israel.”
And apparently, the authors of Zionism Unsettled have forgotten about Churches for Middle East Peace, an organization founded in 1984 that, according to Carenen, “encouraged a sympathetic U.S. policy response to the Palestinians. So much for the assertions that the plight of the Palestinians was a “taboo” subject and that the letter sent to Congress in 2012 was the first time this taboo was broken.
(Interestingly enough, Carenen’s book – from which this information was obtained – is cited in Zionism Unsettled in its treatment of how mainline Protestants responded to the Holocaust.)
Zionism Unsettled‘s assertion that Jewish and Christian support for Zionism has been “sheltered” from debate is also contradicted by recent history. Since 2000, mainline churches have issued a number of statements critical of Christian Zionism and the national assemblies of a number of these churches have voted on resolutions that have criticized Israel.
For example, in 2004, the year the PC(USA)’s General Assembly created the Israel Palestine Mission Network, it also approved an overture targeting Israel for divestment.
And in 2005, two denominations – the United Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ – passed resolutions asking Israel to take down the security barrier without asking the Palestinians to stop the suicide attacks that preceded its construction. Israeli policies have also been criticized and debated at the national gatherings of the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Some churches have even supported boycotts of products produced in the West Bank.
Christian and Jewish support for Israel – and the state itself – has been subjected to intense criticism – for decades.
Jews Had it Good Under Islam
The second big lie promoted in Zionism Unsettled is that prior to the arrival of Zionism in the Middle East, Jews living in the region enjoyed “harmonious relations” with their Muslim neighbors. On page 48, the text reports the following:
Jewish life is alive and well in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Estimates of the current Jewish population range from 10,000 to 30,000. The Jewish presence in Persia/Iran is ancient, stretching 2,700 years to the Assyrian and Babylonian conquests of the Israelites. Middle Eastern Jews, also called Mizrahi Jews, share a history of harmonious integration and acculturation in their host countries. Sadly, this model of coexistence was destabilized by the regional penetration of Zionism beginning in the late 19th century.
Jewish Life Alive and Well in Iran?
The passage quoted above is deceptive on a number of levels. Yes, there are Jews living in Iran, but this community, like all religious minorities in this country, has been subject to oppression and harassment, especially since the Islamic revolution in 1979.
The U.S. State Department’s 2012 report on religious freedom in Iran states: “Government rhetoric and actions created a threatening atmosphere for nearly all non-Shia religious groups, most notably for Bahais, as well as for Sufi Muslims, evangelical Christians, Jews, and Shia groups not sharing the government’s official religious views.” It also reports that “All non-Shia religious minorities suffered varying degrees of officially sanctioned discrimination, especially in employment, education, and housing.”
The report states that while the Iranian government does not typically interfere with Jewish religious practice, the Jewish community has experienced “official discrimation.”
Government officials continued to make anti-Semitic statements, organize events designed to deny the Holocaust, and sanction anti-Semitic propaganda. Such propagand
a involved official statements, media outlets, publications, and books. The government’s anti-Semitic rhetoric, as well as the perception among radical Muslims that all Jewish citizens of the country supported Zionism and the state of Israel, continued to create a hostile atmosphere for Jews. The rhetorical attacks also further blurred the lines between Zionism, Judaism, and Israel, and contributed to increased concerns about the future security of the Jewish community in the country. In an August statement, President Ahmadinejad conflated Zionists with Jews when he stated, “It has now been some 400 years that a horrendous Zionist clan has been ruling the major world affairs, and behind the scenes of the major power circles, in political, media, monetary, and banking organizations in the world.” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei made similar statements in an August speech referring to the Zionist regime and Zionists as a “cancerous tumor.”
As a result of this hostile environment, Jews in Iran often go out of their way to distance themselves from Israel, the report states.
Anti-Semitism remained a problem. Many Jews sought to limit their contact with or support for the state of Israel due to fear of reprisal. Anti-American and anti-Israeli demonstrations included the denunciation of Jews, in contrast to the past practice of denouncing only “Israel” and “Zionism.” In November, a Jewish woman in Isfahan was reportedly stabbed to death and her body was mutilated during a land dispute. Her family members had been receiving threats as they pursued legal action to claim back part of their house that had been expropriated and attached to a neighboring mosque. The family could not definitively state the crime was religiously motivated.
“Harmonious Integration and Acculturation”?
Now as far as Mizrahi Jews enjoying “harmonious integration and acculturation” and achieving a “model of coexistence” in Muslim countries in the Middle East, this too is a lie and a contemptible one at that. Mizrahi Jews in the Middle East were subjected to mistreatment long before the arrival of Zionism in the 19th century.
Here, it’s necessary to understand how Jews and Christians lived as dhimmis in Muslim-majority environments for the past 1,400 years. The word “dhimmi” is derived from dhimma, an Arabic word for what has been characterized as a “treaty of protection” historically offered to non-Muslims whose countries have been conquered by Muslim rulers.
This treaty or pact accorded non-Muslims limited protection from violence, but only if they acknowledged Muslims as their social superiors and showed proper deference toward Islam and its adherents. In his book, The Chosen (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), Avi Beker describes the circumstances dhimmis found themselves living under after Muslim conquest: “The treatment of both Jews and Christians under Islam was similar, meant to maintain their service and humiliated status as underclasses lacking basic rights, to be treated with contempt and disdain.”
It is common knowledge, that as dhimmis, Jews (and Christians) were required to wear distinctive clothing and in some instances a yellow star to mark them off from the Muslim majority. They were not allowed to ride horses, and they were denied the right to build or repair their places of synagogues and they were forced to pay a special tax, or jizya for the privilege of keeping their faith. Their testimony was discounted in courts, and if they were attacked by a Muslim, Jews were denied the right of self-defense. They could not raise their hand to a Muslim. The goal of these rules was to encourage non-Muslims to convert to Islam.
This is the system that Zionism Unsettled describes as a “model of harmonious integration and acculturation.”
Beker reports that while the “dhimma” pact did provide some measure of protection, “it could be revoked at any moment, subjecting their lives and property to the will of their rulers.” He continues:
There were periods of tolerance for Jews under Islam, and they were spared the consistent massacres and expulsions that characterized Christian Europe. However, even under Islam, Jews were attacked violently on many occasions. In Morocco and Muslim Spain in the eleventh century, thousands were massacred in riots—long before the horrors of the Crusades.
This history cannot be honestly described with the phrase “harmonious integration and acculturation.”
Mustafa Abu Sway
The lie that Jews (and Christians) had it good under Islam is also promoted in a chapter devoted to highlighting the writings of Imam Mustafa Abu Sway, a Catholic-educated scholar who teaches at Al Quds University. In this section, Abu Sway is quoted at declaring that “Racism is the cornerstone of the Zionist project,” an odd assertion given that 20 percent of Israel’s population is made up of Arabs while in neighboring countries, which are effectively Judenrein, selling land to a Jew is punishable by death.
This chapter paraphrases Sway as asserting that Islam requires its adherents “demonstrate God’s special respect for Jews and Christians and then invokes the Constitution of Medina, a document issued in the early 7th Century as offering “equal rights—including freedom of religion—to Muslims, Jews, Christians and pagans.”
What the chapter fails to report, is that this understanding of equality between the religions, which was offered when Mohammed was still trying to establish himself as a leader in Medina gave way to a much harsher and hostile attitude toward other faiths as Mohammed, and Islam, gained power in the Middle East.
A more relevant text is the Pact of Umar issued at the end of the 7th Century in Jerusalem. It was this document that set the stage for the spread of dhimmitude in Muslim countries throughout the Middle East. Here are some of the rules that dhimmis had to accept under the Pact of Umar:
We shall not manifest our religion publicly nor convert anyone to it.We shall not display our crosses or our books in the roads or markets of the Muslims. We shall use only clappers in our churches very softly. We shall not raise our voices when following our dead. We shall not show lights on any of the roads of the Muslims or in their markets. We shall not bury our dead near the Muslims.We shall
not build houses overtopping the houses of the Muslims.
This section of Zionism Unsettled also reports that Islam allows Muslims to marry “chaste women of the People of the Book [Jews and Christians] without their conversion.” What the text does not report is that under Shariah law, the children of these marriages must be raised as Muslims and that non-Muslim men may not marry Muslim women. (This is relevant to day, for Christian men have been brutally attacked in Egypt for interacting with Muslim women.)
By telling a fairy tale about wonderful Muslim-Jewish relations, the authors of Zionism Unsettled have deceptively done the groundwork for portraying Israel – and not its adversaries – as the singular source of suffering for both the Palestinians and for the people living in the rest of the region.
“Zionism is the Problem”
The third big lie put forth in Zionism Unsettled is that Israel is solely responsible for Palestinian suffering. This lie is summarized quite neatly in the postscript written by Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, founder of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center. “Zionism is the problem,” he writes on page 56. “Zionism and the creation of ‘A New Jew’ has a dark side that has resulted in almost a century of Palestinian humiliation, dispossession, and death.” Zionism, Ateek writes, “drives our ongoing humiliation and dispossession by the Israeli government, with the active cooperation of the US government and mainstream American Jewish communal organizations.”
The fact that a former dhimmi population achieved sovereignty in the face of Arab and Muslim hostility is clearly a source of humiliation for many intellectuals and elites in the Middle East, but if anyone is morally responsible for the humiliation and dispossession of the Palestinians, it is Arab and Palestinian leaders.
Zionist leaders accepted the creation of an Arab state when they accepted UN Resolution 181 passed in 1947 which called for the creation of both a Jewish and an Arab state in the British Mandate. Arab leaders rejected this resolution and declared war on Israel after it declared independence in 1948.
And when these nations attacked Israel it was not as if they were fighting on behalf of Palestinian people. The leaders of these nations wanted the land for themselves and to that end, it was they, and not the Zionists, who stymied the creation of a Palestinian state.
Writing in Palestine Betrayed (Yale University Press, 2010), Efraim Karsh reports that at the time of the 1948 War it “was indeed common knowledge … that the pan-Arab invasion was more of a scramble for Palestine than an attempt to secure Palestinian national rights, and that if the Arab states had succeeded in defeating the Jews and destroying their nascent state, its territory would not have been handed over to the Palestinians but rather divided among the invading forces.”
Karsh also reports that Alan Cunningham, Great Britain’s High Commissioner for Palestine informed Arthur Creech Jones, Secretary of State for Colonies that “the most likely arrangement seems to be Eastern Galilee to Syria, Samaria and Hebron to [King] Abdullah [of Transjordan], and the South to Egypt. (Karsh, page 232).
He also describes how Egypt’s King Faruq stymied Haj Amin Al Husseini’s efforts to create a provisional Palestinian government on May 15, 1948, the day the British Mandate expired. He did this by turning down the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem’s request “to enter Palestine by way of Gaza, along the trail of the Egyptian army’s line of communications, lest this gave the false impression that Egypt acknowledged Hajj Amin’s leadership.” Karsh writes:
As late as June 1949, a few months after the end of the war and the signing of armistice agreements between Israel, Egypt, Transjordan, and Lebanon (with Syria joining a month later), Israeli officials were told by Arab interlocutors … that any territories surrendered by the Jewish state would be handed over to Transjordan, Egypt, and Lebanon rather than to a prospective Palestinian state.“What concerned [the Arab states] most and guided their policy was not to win the war and save Palestine from the enemy, but what would happen after the struggle, who would be predominant in Palestine, or annex it to themselves,” the prominent Palestinian Arab politician Musa Alami wrote in October 1949. “Their announced aim was the salvation of Palestine, and they said that afterward its destiny should be left to its people. This was said with the tongue only. In their hearts all wished it for themselves; and most of them were hurrying to prevent their neighbors from being predominant, even though nothing remained except the offal and bones. (Page 234.)
Interestingly enough, Israeli preferred the creation of an independent Palestinian state rather than the annexation of parts of Palestine to Transjordan (what is now known as Jordan) because, among other things, a Palestinian state – separated from Transjordan – would be less threatening to Israel.
In sum, Israeli leaders feared that Transjordan and Iraq would “be bracketed together under a common crown. The prospects of having the Iraqi Empire right on our doorstep was not one we could relish,” Israel’s Foreign Minister Moshe Shertok said in 1948. (Karsh, pages 234-235.)
Ben-Gurion put it this way: “[A]n Arab state in western Palestine is less dangerous than a state that is tied to Transjordan, and tomorrow – probably to Iraq.” (Karsh page 235).
As far as blaming the Israelis for the suffering of the Palestinians in the years after the Six Day War of 1967, the authors of Zionism Unsettled need to remember that Israel came into possession of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in a defensive war that was precipitated by Arab threats to destroy the Jewish state.
Prior to this war, Israeli leaders had abandoned any hope of obtaining these territories, as did the Israeli people. Gorshen Gorenberg reports in the The Accidental Empire that ““irredentism – claims to territory beyond the borders – receded from political debate” in Israel in the years before the Six Day War. At the forefront of this trend was the ruling Mapai Party, but “even the militant Herut party of Menachem Begin, with its roots in the radical nationalism of the European right between the world wars, softened its irredentist claims in return for respectability.”
This is important because it indicates that if Egypt had not promised to destroy Israel in an impending war, precipitating a pre-emptive strike by Israel, and if Jordan had not attacked Israel during the ensuing Six Day War, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank would have remained under Arab control. Clearly, Arab leaders have a large measure of responsibility for the predicament the Palestinians.
And it should also be remembered that the Israelis made an offer at Camp David in 2000. Yassir Arafat said no and refused to make a counte
r offer, and then turned down the Clinton Parameters a few months later. The Palestinians had a chance at statehood and Arafat turned it down, twice. How can Zionism be blamed for Arafat’s dishonesty, corruption and ineptitude?
In their efforts to demonize Israel, the authors of Zionism Unsettled make no mention of the failings of Palestinian Authority and Hamas, the kleptocrats and theocrats who control the West Bank and Gaza Strip, respectively. Can Israel be blamed for the corruption of the Palestinian Authority, whose Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas is reportedly paid $1 million a month? Can Israel be blamed for the failure of the Palestinian Authority to take advantage of foreign offered to improve its water delivery system?
Who is the source of humiliation here? Israel or the Palestinian Authority?
And can Israel be blamed for the violence perpetrated by Hamas in the Gaza Strip? Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and Hamas has proven itself to be catastrophically indifferent to the welfare of the Palestinians whose lives it controls. Is Zionism, or Islamism, the problem in the Gaza Strip?
Zionism Unsettled is not an honest attempt to educate Presbyterians about the tragedy of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but is instead, an obvious attempt to demonize Israel and its supporters, as singular enemies of human rights, justice and peace in the Middle East.
[i] At this point, it’s important to note that contrary to what Zionism Unsettled suggests in the paragraph quoted above, Albert Einstein was a notable Zionist, testifying in favor of Israel’s creation before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry in 1946. He was asked to serve as its president after Chaim Weizmann’s death, a request he turned down with regret. His papers were bequeathed to Hebrew University in Jerusalem. These are not the actions of an anti-Zionist.