This is my expression of support to the call of my Palestinian Christian brother and friend, The Rev. Dr. Jack Sara. “I have already written several articles on this subject, expressing how so many of those so-called ‘Evangelical leaders’ have not been helpful in achieving peace here,” he laments. “As we mark the seventy-second year of the nakba,” he adds, “I call upon Christians around the world to help us say enough of the injustice and to join us in prophetically speaking against systems that instill suffering and strife on a weak and almost helpless people.”
As a young conservative evangelical, I was trained to read Israeli-Arab conflict through the lenses of Dispensational Theology. “Israel, as a chosen people, must be supported or else we’ll be cursed,” my Bible teachers emphasized. The dispensational eschatology allows a Zionist view of looking at the plight of the Palestinian people. Such perspective made me ignore the just character of the God of Israel.
My Theological Journey and Liberation
I was doing a research on West Asia at the University of the Philippines in 1981. I met a group of Arab Christians and they invited me to their fellowship. I started reading the Bible from the perspectives of my Arab sisters- and brothers-in-Christ. It was also the time when I heard, from primary sources—shared with their hearts and minds—of the 1948 expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their land and the subsequent destruction of their communities. My Arab sisters and brothers shared with me how their people, both Muslims and Christians, lost their homes, their loved-ones, their communities, their lives.
That was the time when I renounced dispensationalism and its Zionist biases on Arab-Israeli conflict. That was the time when I parted ways, theologically and ethically, with many of my Christian Zionist friends, many of them happen to be ministry colleagues in the evangelical community.
Nakba: Historical Injustices in Palestine
In 2013, Al Jazeera released a series of special documentary on Al-Nakba. I started sharing this perspectives among evangelical leaders in the Philippines, framed in a peace theological perspective. A few changed their views. Most condemned my position as “unfaithful to God’s plan for the future.” Two years ago, I reiterated my conviction to stand in solidarity with Palestine while praying for the peace of both the Palestinians and the Jews during the 70th year of the commemoration of Nakba.
This hour-long video documentary on the 70th year of Nakba helped me understand better the impact of this historical injustice against the Palestinians:
Al-Nakba is not just a one-time historical event. It has been an on-going process of catastrophic experience among Palestinians.
For Palestinians, the Nakba does not just represent an historical event but a continuing process that began in the 1880s as European Zionist settlers started moving into Palestine to lay the groundwork for their future state.
While the Zionist project fulfilled its dream of creating a homeland in Palestine in 1948 after defeating five ill-equipped and outnumbered Arab armies, Palestinian displacement has never stopped.
Between 1947 and 1949, about 750,000 Palestinians out of a population of 1.9 million were expelled from their towns and villages to make way for the new Jewish immigrants.
Most of the these Palestinians fled to neighbouring countries, where they settled as refugees.
The Zionist State Is Not Biblical Israel
I have deep respect and a sacred view of the biblical term ‘Israel’ (יִשְׂרָאֵל) and I cannot, by conscience, use it to describe the present state that occupied Palestine. Here, I’ll refer to this occupying force in Palestine as the Zionist State — as described by a number of Orthodox Jews.
While I seek to be objective, listening to the narratives of both Israel and Palestine, my ethical convictions mandate me to stand in solidarity with Palestine. As a peacebuilder, I try to look at current events with an awareness that present behaviors and attitudes of conflicting parties are best seen through historical contexts. The Zionist State’s current violence against the Palestinians bring shame to those Jews who suffered and died under Hitler; the Zionist State today acts like her past Nazi oppressors. The Jews were an oppressed, displaced, unarmed people in the past; and yet, today’s Zionist State have become militarized oppressors of a displaced, unarmed Palestinian civilians.
Dr. Jack Sarah’s Call To Prayer
“As we mark the seventy-second year of the nakba,” he said, “I call upon Christians around the world to help us say enough of the injustice and to join us in prophetically speaking against systems that instill suffering and strife on a weak and almost helpless people.”
He pleads with us to join him in these prayers:
:: Pray that the Israeli leaders will come to their senses and act in wisdom towards the Palestinians.
:: That there will be no more land stolen from the Palestinians and instead, a just and righteous agreement that is equitable for all will be reached.
:: That violence from all sides would stop and many innocent lives will be spared.
:: That refugees and poor people will be taken care of and their suffering will decrease.
Dr. Sara exhorts us with these powerful words from the Hebrew Bible: “This is what the LORD Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other” (Zechariah 7:9,10).
There’s a new generation of Jews and Palestinians whose hearts and minds are open for a more just-oriented dialogue about their mutual peace. The mission of the Jewish Voice for Peace, for example, needs to be heard:
“Jewish Voice for Peace opposes anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab bigotry and oppression. JVP seeks —
:: an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem;
:: security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians;
:: a just solution for Palestinian refugees based on principles established in international law;
:: an end to violence against civilians; and,
:: peace and justice for all peoples of the Middle East.”
My prayer is that the new generation of Palestinians and Jews would strengthen their resolve as they pursue justice-based peace in their determination of a common future.