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The Palestinian Theologian Trying to Turn Christian Churches against Jews

Participating in a panel discussion at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, Robert Benne—an expert on Lutheran theology—found himself deeply disturbed by one of his co-panelists, the prominent Palestinian Lutheran pastor Mitri Raheb. Raheb, “something of a celebrity” on the campus, has been influential in bringing the anti-Israel cause—including boycotts—to mainline Protestant churches. In his talk, Raheb repeated, to enthusiastic applause, the standard anti-Israel talking points about apartheid, colonialism, and the like, adding the claim that Jews have no ancestral connection to the ancient Judeans and Israelites. Even more troubling, Benne found in Raheb’s words a revival of supersessionism—the doctrine that the advent of Christianity has completely voided God’s prior covenant with Israel:

[In his presentation], Raheb proceeded to reduce Christian faith to a crude liberation theology, one essentially without mention of [traditional Christian notions of redemption]. Those oppressed by “empire” (Israel as a tool of the U.S.) are the Palestinians, whom all good people will support in their effort to end occupation. The faith demands justice for the Palestinians! To top it off, he asserted, the cross of Jesus is “the ultimate critique of political and religious terror.” I presume that “political terror” refers to Rome in the ancient world and Israel today; “religious terror” is Jewish in both eras. Jesus is all about “liberation,” not “salvation.” (An alert Lutheran pastor in the audience asked if there were not more meaning to the cross, to which Raheb shook his head, claiming that his “contextual theology” is the way Palestinians interpret it.)

Entirely absent was the reality on the ground: Muslim oppression of Christians in the West Bank, as well as the danger that militant Muslims would present to Raheb and his family—and the many West Bank institutions he leads—were he to criticize them or the Palestinian Authority. He spoke not a word about the flight of Christians from his own hometown, Bethlehem, and the protective strategy of Christians in the West Bank to gather into small enclaves distant from their Muslim neighbors. . . .

[Raheb] is a one-man wrecking crew, supported by many who are no friends of Israel or of the Jewish people. He is closely associated with the BDS movement and steers churches toward strategies that would destroy Israel if successful.

[A]s a Christian, I am concerned about the emergence among Christians of a politically driven supersessionism—a “replacement theology” based on a crude liberation theology. Raheb’s statement about Jews as a medieval East European “invention” is an egregious example, for it denies that they are people of the covenant. This mentality could do great damage to the Jewish cause.

Read more at First Things

More about: Anti-Semitism, Christian Zionism, Christianity, Jewish-Christian relations, Palestinians, Religion & Holidays

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen