Seeing with unseeing eyes: Evangelical Zionism’s indifference to the oppression of the Palestinians

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Abstract
This paper examines the underlying justifications for Evangelical Christian Zionism’s indifference towards the Israeli occupation of Gaza, West bank and East Jerusalem since the 1967 war and the impetus such indifference provides in supporting the Israeli Government’s continuing oppression of the Palestinian People.

It considers the Evangelical claim by some that the territories occupied by Israel in the 1948 and 1967 wars led to the restoration of the Jewish people as a nation (Wagner 1998,,p. 40-41) in light of their historical and religious ties to those territories.

While acknowledging such Jewish ties to the land of Israel, this essay argues that Palestine under the British Mandate was already recognized by the League of Nations as a nation, with the Palestinians as a juridical people, living on their land for over a millennia, even before the influx of Jews from Europe and the establishment of the Israeli State in 1948.

As such, seemingly unyielding support by significant numbers of Christian Zionists for the Israeli government’s continuing occupation of Palestinian territories, demolition of their homes and building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank is an endorsement of not only a violation of International law by Israel , but its furtherance of an apartheid system over the lives of millions of Palestinian people.

I argue that such support for an oppressive Israeli occupation that deprives the Palestinian people of their right to self-determination and Statehood by incarcerating them, stripping them of their political and legal rights as a national group, and expelling them from their homeland is morally, ethically and, from the International law perspective, legally indefensible.

Introduction
Evangelical Christian Zionism’s indifference to the plight of the Palestinians

What accounts for the apparent indifference of significant numbers of Evangelical Zionist Christians to the plight of Palestinians imprisoned for more than half a century in Gaza, the ‘World’s largest Open-Air Prison’ (Chomsky in Truthout , November 9, 2012)….

Is such an indifference born out of an unquestioning, blind loyalty to Israel, with little or no regard for the plight of the Palestinian people” (Kirsten Powers: Daily Beast 2017), —
millions of whom live in the West Bank which witnesses on a daily basis —

”home demolitions and the forced eviction of Palestinian families; punitive arrests, unfair trials, ill-treatment and torture of detainees and the use of excessive or lethal force to subdue nonviolent demonstrations as well as the use of restrictive legal means.” (Amnesty International , 2020)

The Christian faith advocates Christ’s love for all:

”Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love”(John 15:9)

Yet why have large numbers of Evangelical Christians continued to support the dehumanization of entire generations of the Palestinian people since the ‘Nakba’ or the Catastrophe of 1948 —

evincing an indifference to their suffering under the brutal Israeli military regime that controls every aspect of those living in the West Bank – from birth to death…

Noam Chomsky describes his visit to Gaza in this graphic manner:

Even a single night in jail is enough to give a taste of what it means to be under the total control of some external force.”

”And it hardly takes more than a day in Gaza to appreciate what it must be like to try to survive in the world’s largest open-air prison, —

where some 1.5 million people on a roughly 140-square-mile strip of land are subject to random terror and arbitrary punishment, with no purpose other than to humiliate and degrade.”(Truthout , November 9, 2012)

Like Chomsky, one wonders how it is even humanely possible to deny the daily realities in Gaza and the West Bank documented by Human Rights organizations; —

of countless Palestinian children being brutally wounded or shot dead by the Israeli defence forces;

Of an IDF soldier shooting a boy, Abd el-Rahman Shatawi, in the head in the West Bank village of Kafr Qaddum, —

the bullet exploding into dozens of fragments in the child’s brain, leaving him in an induced coma at Safra’s Children’s Hospital. (Haaretz 2019).

Are Palestinian children and their families any less human than other racial groups and worthy of such dehumanization?

Unequivocal evidence of such brutal and oppressive treatment of the Palestinians by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) documented by Human Rights organisations such as B’Tselem (btselem.org) has apparently failed to deter continuing Evangelical support for the occupation for a number of ideological and ethno-religious reasons which this paper explores.

With the U.S. evangelicals becoming the ‘fastest-growing sector of the Israeli tourism market’, Daniel Hummel, author of Covenant Brothers: Evangelicals, Jews, and U.S.-Israeli Relations. notes that:

‘the tours to Israel designed for evangelicals generally have minimal contact with Palestinians” (NPR 2019)

It’s as if the Palestinians and their decades of suffering at the hands of brutal Israeli military forces are obscured from the view of those visiting the Mount of Olives or the Gardens of Gethsemane,

they, the Palestinians simply do not exist in the eyes of Evangelical Christians …..

Recent empirical research conducted by Inbari, Bumin and Byrd at the University of N. Carolina argue that:

Evangelical support for Israel is driven by respondent’s beliefs rooted in Evangelical Christian theology and by their feeling of cultural and religious affinity with Jews, —

rather than geopolitical/security concerns, feeling of guilt for historical persecution of Jews at the hands of Christians, or feelings of commonality on the basis of political/democratic institutions.” (Inbari, Bumin and Byrd, p.2)

The West Bank , for instance, in which an increasing number of Israeli settlements are built is referred to by Evangelicals in the Hebrew Old Testament as Judea and Samaria; —

a site which ‘holds special importance to evangelicals who see a divine hand in the modern-day return of Jews to a Biblical homeland.'(Maayan Lubell, Elana Ringler, Reuters, September 12, 2019 )

Yet……why and in what way do such ideological beliefs rooted in Evangelical Christian Theology, informed by one’s perceived ‘cultural and religious affinity with the Jews’, —-

contribute to a denial or sheer indifference towards the horrendous plight of nearly 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza,–

Palestinians and their children who continue to live under a brutal racist settler colonial occupation that may be traced back to 1948 and earlier,

denying them juridical status and devastating their physical, social and cultural well being for more that half a century?

Seeing with unseeing eyes the oppression of the Palestinians: a denial born out of ignorance or bad faith?

The renowned Criminologist and Sociologist, Stan Cohen, sheds some light on why some people deny the obvious….

Cohen grew up in a Jewish family in South Africa during the apartheid regime before going on to live in Israel for 18 years; He worked with the Research Director of the Israeli human rights organization, B”Ttselem, on a research project involving claims of torture against Palestinian detainees.

In examining the nature of such indifference among the Jewish community towards the Palestinians, Cohen wrote:

There was something like an unspoken collusion to ignore ( or pretend to ignore?) the whole subject [of torturing Palestinians].

Thousands of Israelis and tourists walk everyday down the main streets of Jerusalem , Jaffa Road , on to which backs the ‘Moscobiya’ , the prison and detentions centre in the Russian Compund.

This was well known as a place where Palestinians were detained, interrogated and tortured by the Shabaq, the General Security Services.

On 22nd April 1995, a Palestinian suspect, Abed al-Samad Harizat collapsed there after fifteen hours of interrogation. Harizat had been literally shaken to death – yanked up and down by his shirt collar …..

the High Court ruled shaking was perfectly okay…… Pedestrians walk within a few yards of the cells where this happened….

I kept wanting to say , ‘Don’t you know what’s going on?”
But of course they knew.

I glibly saw this as yet another instance of denial – not the crude lying of cynical apologists , —

but the complete bad faith of people trying to look innocent by not noticing.’ (Cohen, States of Denial, pp.xi-xii)

Were Evangelical Zionists the World over unaware that out of 2202 Palestinians killed by the Israeli Security Forces during ‘Operation Protective Edge’ in 2014, over 500 were children? (B’TSELEM 2016)

Were they ignorant of the fact that–

2700 Palestinian demonstrators- caged by Israel within the coastal enclave of Gaza- were severely injured, shot in the abdomen or leg by Israeli soldiers ,

while 58 Palestinians including many who were teenagers were killed by Israeli snipers using live gun fire at the Gaza fence during Gaza’s Great March of Return Protests 2018/19?

All this Palestinian blood of children , women and men spilled on the very land that had been forcibly occupied or taken from them by Israel Security Forces in 1967; land to which they yearned to return as a free People …..

while just some miles away from Gaza, Trump’s son in- law, Jared Kushner, Ivanka, together with Netanyahu celebrated Trump’s move of the American embassy to Jerusalem (NYT 2018)

a celebration, to some, of a move closer to the fulfillment of Messianic prophesy….

American Evangelical, Pastors John Hagee and Robert Jeffress prayed at the newly minted embassy at Jerusalem, ‘ while fewer than 50 miles away Israeli forces indiscriminately killed at least 58 Palestinian protesters in Gaza and injured thousands more.’

“We thank you, O Lord, for President Donald Trump’s courage,” Hagee said, as Israeli soldiers opened fire with live rounds upon Gazan men, women, and children near the fence that serves as a blockade.

Jeffress, too, offered thanks for a president who “boldly stands on the right side of history” and of God.” (Jasper Vaughn, SOJOURNERS, 2018)

One wonders whether an individual’s ideological fervor, religious or political convictions can be so overpowering in its effect that —

it blinds or at least obscures one’s vision of the cruel social injustices occurring all around us……of the violence perpetrated against defenceless Palestinian children …..

are we so fixated on the pre-millennial return of Christ in Israel , that we fail to see the blood of innocent children spilled by Israeli soldiers …..

aren’t Palestinian children also children of Christ?

It is, however, heartwarming that Richard Mouw, a former President of Fuller Theological Seminary condemned the “shameful” celebration of the embassy’s opening.(Jasper Vaughn, SOJOURNERS, 2018)

Mouw stated:

God is not indiscriminate in handing out blessings to Israel,”

The biblical prophets “never called for an uncritical acceptance of whatever happened to be the current policies and practices of Israel’s leaders.”(Jasper Vaughn, SOJOURNERS, 2018)

This paper questions whether the perceived indifference of Evangelical Zionists to the brutal violence suffered by Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli military is even remotely grounded in their ignorance of the empirical lived realities of the Palestinian People….

Such indifference, I argue, appears to be in the guise of a denial.. …

a denial that the Palestinians are even victims;

and an assertion that the real victims are the Israeli Jews …

As Stan Cohen puts it:

“The self-righteous claim to victimhood was most famously stated by Golda Meier (the 4th Prime Minister of Israel) …in her reproach of Arabs (Palestinians , she had said, did not exist) for ‘making’ nice Israeli boys do all those terrible things to them.’ (Cohen p.96).

Yet, empirically documented data by International Human Rights organisations such as Amnesty and B’THSELEM reveal that–

the overwhelming number of Palestinian victims killed , maimed and imprisoned by Israeli Security Forces —

is grossly disproportionate to the number of Israeli victims killed by Hamas

For instance during the 2014 Operation Protective Edge , the killing ratio was 550 to 1, representing 550 Gazan children killed as compared to 1 Israeli child killed, —

and the destruction ratio, 18,000 to 1, reflects the 18000 Palestinian homes destroyed as compared to 1 Israeli Home during the war. (Prof. Norman Finkelstein , The Intercept, 2018)

It is remarkable, therefore, that Israel continues to be perceived by Evangelical Zionists Christians as victims of Palestinian terrorism rather than as aggressors..

Such a persistent denial by Evangelical Zionists that Palestinians are victims of Israeli settler colonialism and apartheid appears, to a significant extent, to be ideologically driven—

by the Messianic belief in the unveiling of apocalyptic biblical prophesy and its anticipation of Christ’s return to the promise land, Israel.

In carrying out a quantitative content analysis of the highly influential American Tele-evangelist Pat Robertson’s 700 Club Program, Eric Gormly of the University of North Texas argues:

Robertson’s essential message is that the U.S. must support Israel’s hard-line policies to combat Palestinian terrorism or risk the survival of Israel and America.
But the key motivation for this position rests on the belief by many Evangelical Christians that apocalyptic events are coalescing in Israel, —
and that U.S. policy can and must help lay the foundation for Christ’s return” (Gormly 2005, p. 255)
The immensity of such ideological power underpinning Evangelical Zionism’s belief in the fulfillment of Messianic prophesy as a driver for Evangelical Christian support of the Israeli occupation is not to be underestimated….
It raises the existential question of:
whether such ideological beliefs underpinned by biblical and historical meta-narratives of Israel as God’s promised Land,–
crafted by ‘moral entrepreneurs’ (Stan Cohen) and woven into the collective conscience and memory of generations of Evangelical Christians –
have obscured the vision and seared the moral conscience of Evangelical Zionists in ways that justify for them Israel’s infliction of cruel, inhumane violence on the Palestinian People?
As Stan Cohen notes:
“in many conflicts …like the Israeli-Palestinian, the Bosnian- Serb…- individual participants on each side have acute political consciousness and a detailed historical sense of their victimhood.
In these societies, the victim reversal myths of ethnic nationalism flow easily between leaders , media and ordinary people.( Cohen p. 96-97)
Participants, even if they are totally grounded in a hedonistic and apolitical subculture of cruelty and male violence, glibly appeal to history for vindication….
A collective memory that denies full humanity to the out-group allows for various shades of getting rid of – from forcible segregation to ethnic cleansing or mass deportation to even genocide.’ ( Cohen p. 96-97)

 

 

Underlying reasons for Evangelical Christianity’s denial of Palestinian oppression:  A fascination with apocalyptic eschatology

A singularly popular version of an eschatological belief in the early church known as “historic premillennialism” posited that Jesus would return to earth prior to the establishment of his thousand year kingdom. (Wagner 1998, p.35).

Such apocalyptic eschatology derived from the ‘Gospels ( Matthew 24), the early Pauline letters (1 Thessolonians 5:1-11) , and throughout the book of Revelation’ (Wagner 1998, p.35) has gained wide currency among Biblical scholars and adherents of Evangelical Christianity.

The manifestation of such dispensationalist thinking was apparent at the time Israel established itself as a State in 1948 and became to be perceived by Evangelicals as the geographical site for the fulfillment of Biblical Messianic prophesy.

This perceived inexorable pull towards the fulfillment of Messianic biblical prophesy is succinctly portrayed by Wagner:

”The establishment of the Jewish state of Israel in 1948 stimulated pre-millennial dispensationalist advocates and gave them new momentum.

To see the Jewish people restored as a nation was a sign that the clock of Biblical prophecy was ticking and history was rapidly approaching the final events leading to the return of Jesus and the close.”

”When Israel captured Jerusalem in the June 1967 war, dispensationalists were certain that the end was near.” (Wagner 1998,,p. 40-41)

To argue as Dispensationalists do that the unseen hand of the Divine was instrumental in fulfilling Messianic prophecy on 14 May 1948—

when the Zionists in Palestine declared independence and ‘launched thirteen full – scale military operations, resulting in the forced displacement of 250, 000 Palestinians from their homes’ ( Erakat p.51)—

is to overlook the political strategization and machinations of the colonial powers represented in the UN and the Zionists militia at that time.

History reveals that UN Resolution 181 preceding the Zionists’ unilateral declaration of independence —

had little if anything to do with a divine miraculous reclaiming of Palestine by the Jews of a land that was waiting to be rediscovered , devoid of a national, cultural and religious, ethnical groups;

Rather, the 181 Resolution was a deliberate act of political expediency to assuage the colonial powers within the newly formed UN .

In fact, history tells us the recommendation that the legality of the partition of Palestine be put before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) was rejected.

As Noura Erakat argues:

“Resolution 181 did not consider the will of the local population, not the legality of the UN’s authority to propose partition, nor the legality of the partition itself.
Although Jews comprised only 30 percent of the population and owned 6 percent of the land at this point , —

Resolution 181 apportioned the Jewish community 55 percent of Palestine.
It allocated 45 percent of the territory to native Palestinians, who constitued 70 percent of the population and owned the vast majoirty of the land.”

The political imperative to use the Mandate for Palestine as a means to resolve the Jewish refugee crisis overrode the question of law.”

What followed were military clashes between what some may describe as a metaphorical Jewish David and an Arab Goliath culminating in the end of the Arab Israeli war in March 1949 and the recognition of Israel by UN as a sovereign State.

Such a portrayal of the war was a myth argues Avi Shlaim,–

”fostered by official and semiofficial accounts of the 1948 war….that the Israeli victory was achieved in the face of insurmountable military odds.

The war is portrayed as a desperate, costly, and heroic struggle for survival with plucky little Israel fighting off marauding armies from seven Arab states.”( Shlaim p.294)

”By mid-July the IDF fully mobilized 65,000 men under arms, by September the number rose to 90,000, and by December it reached a peak of 96,441.”

”The Arab states also reinforced their armies, but they could not match this rate of
increase.”

‘Thus, at each stage of the war, the IDF significantly outnumbered all the
Arab forces ranged against it, and by the final stage of the war its superiority ratio
was nearly two….”

”during the first truce, in violation of the U.N. arms embargo, Israel imported from all over Europe (especially from Czechoslovakia) rifles, machine guns,armored cars, field guns, tanks, airplanes, and all kinds of ammunition in large quantities…”

The final outcome of the war was thus not a miracle but a faithful reflection of the underlying Arab-Israeli military balance.

In this war, as in most wars, the stronger side ultimately prevailed ( Shlaim p.294-295))

The pretext of what was argued by the Zionists paramilitary to be a defensive war resulted in the reduction of the Palestinian population from 1 million to 160,000 and destruction of more than 400 Palestinian villages. ( Erakat p.52).

Such a devastation and expulsion of three quarter of a million Palestinian people and their families from a land on which they lived for over a millennia would, in contemporary language, amount to ethnic cleansing,—

a crime against humanity proscribed today under the Rome Statute 1998, Art. 7(d) (Deportation or forcible transfer of a population) of the International Criminal Court.

No amount of linguistic creativity among Jewish officials and Zionist scholars portraying the 1948 war as a defensive one could deny the atrocities committed by the Zionist paramilitary Irgun with the support of Haganah…

atrocities led by Manachem Begin ( Former Prime Minister of Israel) such as the massacre of at least one hundred unarmed villgers at Deir Yassin, a village located along a road from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv continue to be a moral stain on Zionist actions.

Erakat quotes 12 year old Fahim Zaydan’s recollection of the horror he experienced that night at the hands of the Zionist military forces:

“They took us out one after another; shot an old man and when one of his daughters cried, she was shot too.

Then they called my brother Muhammad, and shot him in front of us, —
and when my mother yelled , bending over him -carrying my little sister Hudra in her hands, still breastfeeding her- they shot her too.” ( Erakat p.50)

In a cruel twist of irony, Israel today has drawn up plans to construct 2,300 housing units for Jerusalem’s Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) population on the very site of the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin; —

One among numerous settlement constructions undertaken by Israel to cover-up the ruins of Palestinian villages destroyed during the Nakbah. ( Middle East Monitor 2018)

Edward Said, a Palestinian American and professor of Columbia University, wrote on the empirical realities of pain, loss and victimization Palestinian people experienced at the hands of another people, —

giving the lie to the Zionist claim that the 1948 war was a defensive one, countering an existential threat.

My generation of Palestinians, still reeling from the shock of losing everything in 1948, find it nearly impossible to accept that their homes and farms were taken over by another people.

I see no way of evading the fact that in 1948 one people displaced another, thereby committing a grave injustice.

Reading Palestinian and Jewish history together not only gives the tragedies of the Holocaust and of what subsequently happened to the Palestinians their full force…

but also reveals how in the course of interrelated Israeli and Palestinian life since 1948, one people, the Palestinians, has borne a disproportional share of the pain and loss. ( The New York Times Magazine 1999)

The Promised land to the Jews or a Palestinian Nation with a Palestinian People prior to 1948?

The proclamation by David Ben- Gurion on May 14, 1948 that the State of Israel had been established was not only given official recognition by US President Harry S. Truman (Office of the Historian), –]

but was perceived by a significant number of Evangelicals and Christian Zionists as fulfillment of a divine promise:

that ‘God promised the land (of Israel) to the Jews and to the Jews alone’; a belief derived in part from biblical passages describing the Covenant God made with Abraham:

“The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you” (Genesis 17:8). (Religion News Service, 8 February, 2020)

This paper does not set out to refute or question the truth of Evangelical beliefs underlying the fulfillment of Messianic prophesies.

What it does reject unequivocally is the claim by a number of Evangelicals and Political Zionists invoking Jewish historical ties to Palestinian territories—

that Palestine only acquired Statehood in 1948 when Israel established itself;

Or as Golda Meir, Israel’s first female prime minister boldly claimed in the Sunday Times and Washington Post in June 1969.:

“When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian state?

… It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them.

They did not exist,” (Aljazeera 2019)

This essay argues that when Britain accepted its role as a mandatory power over Palestine as reflected in an agreement with the Council of the League of Nations in 1922, —

‘Palestine was regarded as a juridical entity separate from Britain,’ ‘(Quigley p.39) —

in accordance with Article 22(4) of the Covenant for the League of Nations which states:

“Certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized —

subject to the rendering of administrative and assistance by a Mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone’.

It would inconceivable today under International law for nationals of a sovereign State to be deprived of their citizenship and their political rights to self-determination—

merely because another ethnical, religious or political group claims a pre-existing historical or religious claim to that same territory.

The competing claims of territorial sovereignty over Palestine by both Jews and Palestinians are further articulated by —

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, a human rights and peace organization. They argue that:

‘Jews have a genuine tie to the Land, but not an exclusive one.
It’s a genuine historical tie but not exclusive.

Jews (actually, Judeans) were the majority in this land for only some 1900 of the past 5,000 years of recorded history, and were the governing authority for even less.

For the past 1400 years or so, the country “belonged to” the Muslims, Arabs for the most part, although many peoples came and went.”(The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions 2009)

The Israeli government’s outright denial of the Palestinian peoples’ political and juridical rights to be recognized as a nation by invoking Jewish historical and religious ties to the land of Israel—

is unquestioningly a denial of the Palestinian’s right to self determination.

I argue that acceptance of such a pre-existing historical and religious right to the occupied territories as a ground for Israel’s colonizing, displacing and segregating of the indigenous people from the rest of society constitutes–

the practice of settler colonialism and apartheid, a crime against humanity prohibited by International law.

Apartheid as a form of racial discrimination is prohibited by–

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination 1965

Article 1

1. In this Convention, the term “racial discrimination” shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.

While the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the
Crime of Apartheid 1973 States:

Article I
1. The States Parties to the present Convention declare that apartheid is a crime against humanity and that inhuman acts resulting from the policies and practices of apartheid and similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination, as defined in article II of the Convention, are crimes violating the principles of international law, in particular the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and constituting a serious threat to international peace and security.

As Richard Falk, Professor of International Law and Practice Emeritus at Princeton University and Virginia Tilley Professor of Political Science at Southern Illinois University assert:

”No State is immune from the norms and rules enshrined in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which must be applied impartially.”

How then does Israel Justify its decades long occupation of the Palestinian Territories in light of the fact that:

”roughly 4.6 million Palestinians who live in the occupied Palestinian territory
(2.7 million in the West Bank and 1.9 million in the Gaza Strip) are governed not by
Israeli civil law, but by military law, codified as orders issued by the commander of
the territories and administered by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and other
designated arms of the occupying power.”(UN,, ESCWA, 2017)

Richard Falk and Virginia Tilley further argue that:

”Israel already administers the occupied Palestinian territory in ways consistent with apartheid, given that the territory has not one population but two:

(a) Palestinian civilians, governed by military law; and (b) some 350,000 Jewish settlers, governed by Israeli civil law. The racial character of this situation is evidenced by the fact that all West Bank settlers are administered by Israeli civil law on the basis of being Jewish, whether they are Israeli citizens or not.” (UN,, ESCWA, 2017)

We are left with a ludicrous situation where Israel calls itself a democracy but practices apartheid……

Deconstructing the ‘realities’ produced by Israeli State propaganda justifying the erasure of Palestinian juridical existence

Israel’s Right wing political impetus to Christian Zionism since 1967

Evangelical Christian Zionists gained greater support for their ideological beliefs with the emergence of Menachem Begin’s right wing ideological government in 1977 supported by the likes of militant individuals such as Ariel Sharon and ‘the increasingly powerful settler movement and smaller Orthodox religious parties'(Wagner 1998,,p.41-42) .

The Likud party under Begin relied on ”the Biblical names “Judea and Samaria” for the West Bank and employed the “divine argument” to justify its confiscation of Arab land for settlements —

(i.e., God had given the land exclusively to Jews and they had a divine “right” (Wagner 1998,,p.42)

Further Evangelical support for the Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories was evinced at Trump’s unveiling of his ‘deal of the century’ on 28 January 2020 .

The US president’s Evangelical advisors including John Hagee, chairman of Christians United for Israel and Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas were flowing with praise for Trump’s call for–

‘isolated Palestinian cantons adjoined by bridges and tunnels’ and the annexation to Israel of what would presumably be ‘all of Area C in the West Bank (the majority of its land and also where Israeli settlements are located)… including the Jordan Valley.’ (FP January 31, 2020).

Such calls by Evangelical Zionists for the annexation of Israeli occupied territories appear at first glance to be a further fulfillment of Messianic prophesies attributable  to Divine intervention or to some serendipitous moment coinciding with the alignment of the stars…

This paper, however, posits that the blueprint for charting, orchestrating and executing what is argued to be Israel’s settler colonial occupation and apartheid rule of Gaza, the West bank and East Jerusalem was not left to chance or fate…..

but the result of deliberate Executive planning by Israel’s successive governments since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.

Consider Illan Pappe’s reference to the meticulous planning undertaken by the Israeli Cabinet under Prime Minister, Levi Eshkol, just after the 1967 war.

The Thirteenth government of Israel convened almost daily …in the immediate aftermath of the 1967 war, debating intensively the fate of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and the future of the people living in them.”

“After almost three months of deliberation, they concluded their discussions with a series of decisions, of ,which , one way or another condemned those living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to life imprisonment in the biggest ever mega prison of the modern age.”

“The Palestinians living there were incarcerated for crimes they never committed and for offences that were never committed , confessed or defined.” (Pappe 2017p.x)

The reader will remember the historical backdrop to Israel’s settler colonial occupation of Gaza and the West Bank in 1967, a time, as described by Noura Erakat when —

‘colonialism and conquest had become delegitimized and the principle of self-determination had crystallized into positive law guaranteeing independence and self-rule;

Israel’s settler – colonial ambitions were now anachronistic and controversial’ (Erakat, p. 63)

Further, the settler occupation of Gaza and West Bank by Israel in 1967 was at a time when the UN General Assembly’s 1960 ‘Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples’ had come into existence acquiring ‘the status of a customary rule of international law over time’ ( Tilley 2012, p.17).

Virginia Tilley notes the significance of the UN resolution on the Declaration on Colonialism was that it was ‘adopted unopposed by all the Colonial Powers, which chose to abstain rather than vote against it.’ ( Tilley 2012, p. 238)

The State of Israel as an ‘Occupying Power’ on Palestinian territories it had militarily seized in the 1967 war was thus faced with what appeared to be an insurmountable legal and political dilemma–

How could it justify the occupation of Palestinian territories and the setting up of Jewish settlements within them under International Law —

without violating the 1960 UN Declaration on Colonialism and , significantly, Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states:

‘Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.”

The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.

‘Nevertheless, the Occupying Power may undertake total or partial evacuation of a given area if the security of the population or imperative military reasons so demand.

Such evacuations may not involve the displacement of protected persons outside the bounds of the occupied territory except when for material reasons it is impossible to avoid such displacement.

Persons thus evacuated shall be transferred back to their homes as soon as hostilities in the area in question have ceased. (ICRC, 1949)

So, any form of military action by Israel, therefore, that resulted in demographic changes to the Gazan and West Bank population, —

whether by expulsions of Palestinians from their homes or transfer of Israeli Jews into these territories, was prohibited under International Humanitarian Law enshrined in Article 49.

Yet, the Israeli government’s ingenuity in circumventing the proscriptions of Art.49 was in —

creating ‘a veneer of temporality’ when setting up military installations and permitting Jewish civilians to settle in the occupied territories by disingenuously describing such Jewish civilians as soldiers (Erakat , p.62)–

thereby invoking the exception built within Article 49 to the transfer of civilians within occupied territories based on ‘imperative military reasons”.

 

Additional Reading: 

The Haaretz 2020:  https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-what-fuels-evangelical-christians-love-hate-relationship-with-jews-1.9023555

 

References

‘Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid, UN ESWA, 2017.

Online: middleeastmonitor.com/wp-content/uploads/downloads/201703_UN_ESCWA-israeli-practices-palestinian-people-apartheid-occupation-english.pdf

Israel to build 2,300 ultra-Orthodox houses on site of Deir Yassin massacre, Middle East Monitor, 29 November 2018.

Online: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20181129-israel-to-build-2300-ultra-orthodox-houses-on-site-of-deir-yassin-massacre/

HOW SOME AMERICAN EVANGELICALS ARE CHALLENGING VIEWS ABOUT PALESTINE, SOJOURNERS, 13 September 2018.

Online: https://sojo.net/articles/how-some-american-evangelicals-are-challenging-views-about-palestine

Online: https://theintercept.com/2018/05/20/norman-finkelstein-gaza-iran-israel-jerusalem-embassy/

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group of people raise their hands on stadium
Photo by Josh Sorenson on Pexels.com

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