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.

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

The Impossibility of Unilateral Withdrawal from the West Bank

Feb. 19 2019

Since throwing his hat into the ring for the Israeli premiership, the former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz has been reticent about his policy plans. Nonetheless, he has made clear his openness to unilateral disengagement from the West Bank along the lines of the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, stating the necessity of finding “a way in which we’re not controlling other people.” Gershon Hacohen argues that any such plan would be ill-advised:

The political and strategic precepts underlying the Oslo “peace” process, which Gantz echoes, vanished long ago. The PLO has unequivocally revealed its true colors: its total lack of interest in peace, unyielding rejection of the idea of Jewish statehood, and incessant propensity for violence and terrorism. . . . Tehran is rapidly emerging as regional hegemon, with its tentacles spreading from Yemen and Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea and its dogged quest for nuclear weapons continuing apace under the international radar. Even the terror groups Hizballah and Hamas pose a far greater threat to Israel’s national security than they did a decade ago. Under these circumstances, Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank’s Area C, [the only part still under direct Israeli control], would constitute nothing short of an existential threat.

Nor does Israel need to find a way to stop “controlling other people,” as Gantz put it, for the simple reason that its control of the Palestinians ended some two decades ago. In May 1994 the IDF withdrew from all Palestinian population centers in the Gaza Strip. In January 1996 it vacated the West Bank’s populated areas (the Oslo Accords’ Areas A and B), comprising over 90 percent of the West Bank’s Palestinian residents, and handed control of that population to the Palestinian Authority (PA). . . .

This in turn means that the real dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as within Israel itself, no longer revolves around the end of “occupation” but around the future of eastern Jerusalem and Area C. And since Area C (which is home to only 100,000 Palestinians) includes all the Jewish West Bank localities, IDF bases, transportation arteries, vital topographic sites, and habitable empty spaces between the Jordan Valley and the Jerusalem metropolis, its continued retention by Israel is a vital national interest. Why? Because its surrender to a potentially hostile Palestinian state would make the defense of the Israeli hinterland virtually impossible—and because these highly strategic and sparsely populated lands are of immense economic, infrastructural, communal, ecological, and cultural importance, not to mention their historical significance as the bedrock of the Jewish ancestral homeland

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More about: Benny Gantz, Israel & Zionism, Two-State Solution, West Bank