For more than two thousand years ago historians and analysts have disagreed on the manner in which to present accounts of the past and the present. Some have sought to arouse sympathy or pity or empathy for the sufferings or difficulties of the peoples they are discussing. Others have presented a portrait, less emotional and dramatic, and one from which general lessons can be learned.
It is clear that many, perhaps a majority, of those writing or speaking about the condition of the Palestinian Arabs, and the behavior of the State of Israel towards them, in the Middle East have chosen the first approach. This has recently been confirmed by the declarations of mainstream Christian bodies. On May 24, 2013 the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland adopted a committee report, “The Inheritance of Abraham?” The report was amended because the Church admitted that it had “caused worry and concern in parts of the Jewish Community in Israel and beyond.” That concern was appropriately justified. Even after the supposedly more moderate passages in the changes in the document, it still included a passage, “Christians supported Israel as repentance for antisemitism and the Holocaust. Then as Israel became more controversial with their abuse of Palestinians, Christians remained silent.”
The whole report was tendentious and biased in its anti-Israeli stance, even to the belief in Christian silence on Israel. Indeed, the reverse has been the case as one mainstream Christian church after another has been eager to condemn Israel for its actions or non-actions concerning the Palestinians. The most recent has been the statement issued on May 29, 2013 by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Middle East Council of Churches at an international and ecumenical conference held in Beirut, Lebanon. Representatives of every Christian Church in the Middle East and from Christian churches and organizations in 34 countries participated at the meeting held at Notre-Dame du Mont Monastery to discuss “Christians in the Middle East: Presence and Witness.”
The conference was aware and spoke in a general way of contemporary problems in the Middle East: the intensification of religious tribalism; increasing fundamentalism in many of the world’s religions; dispersion of the influence of radicalized Islamist groups; widespread violence and insecurity; a deficit in democratic legitimacy and credibility; poverty and the lack of opportunity, especially for women and youth.
Yet though it did mention “Christian emigration from the region, and a generalized sense of abandonment following decades of unhelpful intervention,” it did not state the real problem of Arab treatment of Christians who have been persecuted and are leaving Arab countries in large numbers. It did not even deal with the slaughter in Syria, a few miles away from the Conference setting, of 80,000 being slaughtered and almost a million being made refugees.
Instead, it followed the familiar and fallacious Palestinian narrative of victimhood. Disregarding the present incredible turmoil in the whole Arab world, as well as the daily reports of Palestinians fleeing from Syria, and the entrance of Hezbollah into the country supporting President Assad, this WCC defined the existing problem in incomprehensible fashion. For the WCC, “Palestine continues to be the central problem in the region.” This was central to the turmoil in the region, a turmoil which was exacerbated by the duplicity of policies of the western powers, especially the United States. This turmoil was explained by the “persistence, after sixty-five years, of continual dispassion of Palestinian people …from their land by Israeli occupation, continual settlement of land inside the 1967 borders by a nation empowered by overwhelming military strength and external alliances and influence.”
The WCC was specific as well as general in this wholesale assault on Israel and disregard of the fighting it might have heard from its Monastery meeting place. It asserted that Jerusalem was an “occupied city with a government which has adopted discriminatory policies against Christians and Muslims alike.” The Council said nothing about discrimination against Christians in other countries or in Saudi Arabia where Christian practice is forbidden. Instead, the Council called for Jerusalem to be an open city with “careful protection” of the holy places of the three religions, ignoring the fact that Israel had been doing exactly that in its concern for freedom of religious expression.
The WCC went even further in its biased, sectarian and myopic statement. It attacked Christians who did not share its views. It asserted, “Christians who promote ‘Christian Zionism’ distort the interpretation of the Word of God and the historic connection of Palestinians – Christians and Muslims- to the Holy Land.” The WCC is apparently not only Holier than any other Christians who disagree with it in its message it derived from God, but also insinuates, in less than subtle fashion, of the world Jewish conspiracy. The WCC holds that Christian Zionists “enable the manipulation of public opinion by Zionist lobbies and damage intra-Christian relationships.” In its extremely disrespectful advice the WCC recommended, perhaps by a crusade and certainly indicating a vendetta, that it convene its academic resources and consult its ecumenical partners to address the issue of Christian Zionism , disclosing its sources, its use as a political weapon against the Palestinian people, and its effects on intra-Christian relations.
It is shameful that the WCC instead of objective analysis has emulated the Palestinian perception of their situation which, in addition to genuine problems, presents the Palestinians as victims, as the international symbol of the oppressed. Those, including the WCC, who identity with the oppressed or with the supposed victims have made the cause of the Palestinians and the condemnation of Israel the main focus of their agenda of Middle Eastern affairs. The WCC, fueled by a fashionable, politically correct anti-Western ideology of collective identity with the supposed oppressed, has shifted the discussion of the disturbing problems of the Middle East from the acute ones in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, and Iran, to the alleged deficiencies of Israel.
It is disgraceful that the WCC has slandered fellow Christians, those Christian Zionists who have a different perception of Israel and demonstrate their sympathy for and love of the Jewish state. The WCC, and those Christian organizations and individuals, who concur with its statement ought to be aware that its assertions about Israel and Christian Zionism, which cannot be dignified as a line of reasoning, are detrimental to and handicap efforts to begin negotiations for a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.