This article appeared in the Jerusalem Post on 9/9/2011
By: Avi Yesawich
By: Avi Yesawich
A series of developments originating from the epicenters of the monotheistic religious world continue to blur the line between religious belief and downright bigotry. Recently, a delegation of high-ranking Synod of Bishops convened a two-week conference at the Vatican, during which the assembly called for an end to the Israeli (i.e. Jewish) occupation of Palestine. The official statement issued by the delegation claimed that that certain biblical concepts could no longer be used as justification for the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria.
When asked to elaborate on the assembly’s position, Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros (handpicked by Pope Benedict XVI to construct the Synod’s concluding propositions) explained, “there is no longer a ‘chosen’ people…the justification of Israel’s occupation of Palestine cannot be based on sacred scriptures.”
|A group of Bishops gathered at the Vatican discuss the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict|
If yes, normally I would say we are witnessing a positive step forward for modern humanity. However, when selective observance of religious dogma by leaders of faith is used to the detriment of another, warning bells start going off in my head.
The reader may opt to believe that the aforementioned position doesn’t reflect Christian majority opinion. However, several ensuing conferences attended by top representatives of various Christian denominations yielded similar proclamations throughout Europe and elsewhere. Furthermore, prominent publications and religious figures with intimate connections to the upper echelons of the Vatican and other religious institutions offer similar condemnations against the Jewish State: It’s very creation is a sin which cannot not be grounded in Biblical Scripture. Israelis (again, Jews) are bent on the permanent oppression and subjugation of the Palestinian people. Italian Journalist Giulio Meotti wrote a scathing report outlining the anti-Israel doctrine posited by many prominent churches, which can be found here.
Needless to say, much of the Islamic world hasn’t remained silent on its feelings towards the Jews or Israel. The spread of vitriolic hate can be found in a majority of mosques throughout the Muslim World and beyond. Israel is depicted as a cancerous tumor that must be wiped off the map, and the Jews are a people that will be eventually be thrust into the Mediterranean. This outstanding sense of hatred prevails despite several Suras, such as 5:21 and 17:104, in the Quran which seemingly recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish presence in the Land of Israel.
Within the Tanakh/Old Testament, one can find many verses supporting a Jewish return to the Land of Israel (such as Isaiah 43: 5-6, Ezekiel 20: 34 and Jeremiah 23: 3-6). The New Testament appears to be silent on the issue of the land, perhaps because a Jewish presence in Eretz Yisrael was then obvious to Jesus and his disciples. Of course, individuals from various religious (or irreligious) positions are free to debate the validity of such verses to their heart’s desire. Still, Orthodox priests and clerics would ostensibly possess significantly less leeway in flirting with any dubious interpretations.
It is important to distinguish between religious and humanistic logic regarding the importance of establishing a comprehensive, lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. From a humanist perspective, the reasons are straightforward: Israelis and Palestinians deserve safety, security and the right to self-determination. They are both entitled to religious, cultural, political and economic freedoms within internationally recognized borders. Basic human rights as recognized by the majority of the international community should be bestowed upon both populations.
Contrarily, arguments based on Abrahamic doctrines are immensely more difficult to postulate, depending on the degree of one’s religiosity. Undoubtedly, many religious leaders agree with the humanist positions, but how can the outstanding contradiction with religious dogma be properly addressed? Are these holy books infallible in their proclamations towards Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria, or not? Is reconciliation truly possible? At the moment, outright avoidance and blanket denials of legitimacy seem to be the most popular and intellectually dishonest solutions circulating at the moment.
Whether such criticism is construed as genuine, anti-Semitic, duplicitous or simply delusional, the increasing rejection of Christian and Muslim recognition of Jewish sovereignty in Israel exposes an alarming trend of revisionist theology and hypocrisy in many religious circles.
Perhaps in the face of perpetual violence, lack of divine intervention and the palpable conflict of religious and political interests, keeping the faith is much harder than one might like to believe.