Christians, Israel, and Palestine

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had an unpleasant social evening the other night and have to accuse
myself of being the cause. In fact my host assured me I was the
initiator of the trouble, the aggressor, and that all he was doing
was insisting on his right to his own opinions and his right to
reject mine. And furthermore, he said, he was totally disinterested
in what I was talking about.

course when you reach that sort of distressing moment at what was
supposed to be an amiable private dinner in friends’ house, things
are very bad. Almost immediately I saw I was at fault, a view that
sober reflection confirmed hours later. And on the spot I began
backing out and down and trying to restore peace and civility for
all four of us.

had introduced not one but both of the topics classically forbidden
at social events (so I once learned and had ignored in this instance).
I had talked of a current situation that involves both religion
and politics. I was really after information I thought my host could
provide, and I picked almost the worst way and time to get it.

had asked him about the issue of Christian evangelicals and support
for Israel. I guess I got my answer after some fashion, but I still
don’t know what it really was, beyond the anger that I had even
dared raise the issue in his home.

started with the distinction among Christians between "the
rapture is near" fans, and those who think that is more or
less pseudo-biblical baloney. Then I went to the subject of support
for Israel in its current rampage.

simply do not now know whether my host would agree with me that
the Israeli attack on the Palestinian lands violates every concept
of "civilized warfare" (if there is such a thing); or
whether my host’s position like that of many evangelicals (he would
probably not find offensive the label "right-wing" Protestant
Christian) is apparently the opposite. Or he has no opinion at all.
And of course on the social level I had no right to ask or to know.
It’s his business, as my view is mine.

forgive myself (only a little bit) because I do find the whole thing
about American attitudes toward the Middle East mess equal parts
puzzling and repugnant. As Charley Reese has pointed out, the situation
in the Holy Land is not a contest of equals. It is tanks, trained
soldiers, superb weaponry, F-16s, and helicopter gunship-all paid
for by us U.S. taxpayers with the one-sixth of all our aid to foreign
nations that we send to Israel-against civilians and guerillas,
a.k.a. terrorists, with rifles and explosives in belts or backpacks
for suicide missions.

seem to recall that Genghis Khan or Tamerlane, or some other one
of the terrible folk who have "left a name at which the world
grew pale to point a moral or adorn a tale," is famed for having
wiped out whole cities, such that hardly even the name of them has
come down in history. And one of the (Christian) Crusades pillaged
(Christian) Constantinople so that "the streets ran with blood."
Contemporary Christians are reminded of this often, and none defend
it any longer.

evidently many Christians defend what is going on in Israel and
Palestine today as a sort of "manifest destiny" or a part
of God’s plan for the human race. I think not. And frankly I question
the probity of people who do acquiesce. It may have been that implication
in my remarks that set my host off. (And it may not.)

have long followed Gary North (a writer of tremendous scope and
energy) in his explication of postmillennialism as against premillennialism,
dispensationalism, amillennialism, and so on. I have his book, Millennialism
and Social Theory
, where the whole confusing thing is set
out in great detail. I have followed North, that is to say, as much
as I am able, although I admit I still have to think hard to tell
you how each of these positions differs from the others.

Latinate terms for eschatological (sorry, another big one) theories
came into heavy use fairly recently among Protestants trying to
discern the end times. The Catholic position all along has been
(I think I’m right, but I walk warily) approximately what is now
called amillennialism, that is, we do not know when the Second Coming
will be, the Last Judgment and the end of the world, but we should
concentrate on being ready for our own personal judgment at our

dispensationalist premillennialist (can anything good come of using
such long, ugly words?) believes the "rapture" is immanent,
Christ will return suddenly, with a trump, and all good Christians
will drive their SUV’s straight to heaven without dying, leaving
behind Israel to begin a seven years’ "Great Tribulation."
But in order for this to happen, "real soon now," there
must be an Israel in existence. And that explains, at least partly,
the enormous pressure on the GOP and its standard bearer, Geo. W.
Bush, to shore up the government of Israel, send it arms, and not
be too pouty when its top man, Sharon, thumbs his nose.

would be funny except for the blood that is flowing. I refer to
the massacre of Jenin, and I quote a sensitive and fair but very
tough Israeli (he is that, if I am any judge of writing that hits
its mark) Uri Averny, in an article, "Immortal
heroes of Jenin
," posted on April 18, and
written originally for the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv and
then picked up by the Guardian (UK):

In the small
refugee camp near Jenin, a group of Palestinian fighters from
all the organizations gathered for a battle of defense that will
be enshrined forever in the hearts of all Arabs. This is the Palestinian
Massada, as an Israeli officer called it, alluding to the legendary
stand of the remnants of the great Jewish rebellion against Rome
in 71 AD.

When the
international media cannot be kept out any more and the pictures
of horror are published, two possible versions may emerge: Jenin
as a story of massacre, a second Sabra and Shatila; and Jenin,
the Palestinian Stalingrad, a story of immortal heroism. The second
will surely prevail.

Nations are
built on myths. I was raised on the myths of Massada and Tel-Chai.
They formed the consciousness of the new Hebrew nation. (At Tel-Chai,
in 1920, a group of Jewish defenders, led by the one-armed hero
Josef Trumpeldor, were killed in an incident with anti-French
Syrian fighters.) The myths of Jenin and Arafat’s compound in
Ramallah will form the consciousness of the new Palestinian nation.

speaks a true soldier and patriot, a man who understands, because
he has come close to it himself, why people stand up and die rather
than succumb. Averny has, I think, nailed it. Sharon is burying
Israel, its idealism, its founding myth, the glory of those who
built it up. At the same time Sharon is as, Averny says, the founder
of a new and greater Palestine.

has the true warrior’s admiration for a brave enemy; he belongs,
I say, to the natural class that the old Vedic caste system called
Kshatriyas, defenders of the realm. He speaks with authority. Here
are his bio lines:

Averny is co-founder of Israel’s Guah Shalom (Peace Coalition).
Born in Germany he emigrated to Palestine in 1933 and joined the
Irgun underground movement in 1948. He was a member of an Israeli
commando unit and was wounded on the Egyptian front. As a journalist
and political activist, he has long been a campaigner for Palestinian
rights. . . ."

salute him as a member of my own generation and a fellow campaigner
for peace among men.

24, 2002

White [send him mail] writes
from Odessa, Texas.
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