Middle East

American Christians Should Listen to Christian Arabs /by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/

Here are some key quotes from a Christianity Today interview with "Beirut-based journalist Rami Khouri, a Palestinian-Jordanian Christian. ... An American citizen, he is editor-at-large of The Daily Star, the largest English-language newspaper in the Middle East. He is also director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of [...]

Deanna Murshed: Evangelicals and Israel

I've gotta admit, it hasn't been easy being a Christian Arab-American, much less in the evangelical church. How many times can you explain that Jesus wasn't baptized in the Rio Grande, that there are tens of thousands of indigenous Palestinian Christians still living in the Holy Land, and that loving Jewish people and "blessing Israel" (as is oft cited from scripture) doesn't mean giving the modern (and mind you, secular) nation-state of Israel a carte blanche on foreign policy or grant it some [...]

Road Map to Peace - or Destruction?

Former President Jimmy Carter's new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, has provoked a storm of controversy since its publication last November. The book immediately soared and has remained high on all the nonfiction best-seller lists. Carter has appeared on numerous national television and radio talk shows to discuss the book and answer his often vitriolic critics. This highly visible drama is instructive and, potentially, a constructive contribution to the elusive search for peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Carter's credentials as a global advocate and hands-on worker for human rights and free and democratic elections, as well as Middle East peacemaking, are well-known and widely affirmed—including by the Nobel Peace Prize committee in 2002. As the American president who, arguably, has done more internationally to promote peace and reconciliation than any other world leader, the venomous attacks in response to his book are all the more striking. What is going on? What can we learn from Carter's book, the heated debate, and the efforts of other influential evangelical Christians seeking to shape views and actions on the volatile Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

The most widespread criticism of Carter's book centers on his use of the term "apartheid." It is obviously provocative. Carter makes clear that he used the word advisedly and with the hope that it would stimulate much-needed discussion. Although he is careful to underscore how his use of the term is not intended to suggest racial discrimination or describe policies and practices within the pre-1967 borders of Israel, many critics either miss or simply ignore his point. He is describing the functional realities of land seizures and mini-Bantustans that he, virtually all Palestinians, and many Israelis recognize after 40 years of Israeli military occupation in the West Bank and, until 2005, Gaza.

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Sojourners Magazine April 2007
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A Kindling of Hope

Every so often in the tense and troubled lands of Israel and Palestine, glimmers of hope appear. For a week in mid-November, the glimmers flickered a little more brightly.

Amir Peretz displaced Shimon Peres as leader of the Labor Party, giving new life to the peace movement in Israel. (And even Ariel Sharon, in quitting Likud, has taken a step away from extremists.) Condoleeza Rice, the U.S. secretary of state, brokered a deal to open up the borders of Gaza. The parents of 12-year-old Ahmed Ismail Khatib, a Palestinian mistakenly killed by Israeli soldiers, opted to donate their son’s organs to six critically ill patients in the hospital where the boy died, all of them Israelis.

So an act of politics, an act of diplomacy, and an act of humanity kindled hope in this region.

But things are never simple. Within days, the Israeli government had invited bids for building 13 new homes in the largest settlement in the West Bank, adding to the contested settlements that encroach upon the land designated for Palestine, and significantly tightened security checkpoints at
Bethlehem.

For all the glimmers, one of the hard realities of this region is the huge gap in understanding between the people of Israel and the people of Palestine. At a conference in mid-November at the International Center of Bethlehem, there was much talk about the perceptions of land.

For Israel, said Jerome Segal, scholar, author, and head of the Jewish Peace Lobby in the United States, “to be a Jew is to be part of a people and a people has to have a place of self-determination.” For historical and scriptural reasons, that place for Jews is Israel.

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Sojourners Magazine January 2006
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Beaten, Not Bowed

Christian Peacemaker Teams members Kim Lamberty and Chris Brown were attacked Sept. 29 by five Israeli settlers while accompanying Palestinian school children south of Hebron. Wielding chains and bats, the settlers broke Lamberty’s arm and left her severely bruised. Brown was hospitalized with fractured ribs and a punctured lung. The children escaped without injury. "I remember thinking to myself that if I just lie very still and pretend that I am unconscious or dead, maybe they will go away," Lamberty reported. "I also remember hearing Chris scream, realizing that he was taking a much worse beating, and knowing that there was nothing I could do for him." Both intend to complete their tour of duty.

On Oct. 9, in the same area, eight settlers attacked CPT members Diana Zimmerman and Diane Janzen and representatives from Operation Dove, Amnesty International, and the local Palestinian community. "We understand unjust systems use violence to repress nonviolent challenges, so we’ll escalate our nonviolence," Mark Frey, administrative coordinator at Christian Peacemaker Teams, told Sojourners. "We believe Christians must be on the front lines, taking our peacemaking as seriously as soldiers take war-making."

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Sojourners Magazine January 2005
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After Arafat

A week after U.S. elections, President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair jointly declared their renewed commitment to invigorate the stalled Middle East peace process. The sudden illness and death of Yasser Arafat, president of the Palestinian Authority, occasioned the highly visible pledges to work diligently for a resolution of this longstanding conflict—including the creation of an independent Palestinian state. Numerous political leaders and pundits have joined with Bush and Blair, expressing hope that a change in Palestinian leadership will provide an opportunity for much-needed progress in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

The commitment to make Middle East peacemaking a top priority is both wise and necessary. Now, perhaps more than ever, it is vitally important that leaders in the international community—the United States, Britain, Russia, the European Union, and the U.N. Security Council—work with Israelis, Palestinians, and neighboring Arab states to translate hopeful words into more than wishful thinking. What is at stake? What is possible? Where do we go from here?

The urgency is visible in several ways. People caught in the ongoing strife experience daily frustrations and indignities born of physical uncertainty and insecurity, economic hardship, and military occupation. The rise of extremism on both sides is a predictable response to frequently thwarted expectations and dreams of a better future. The status quo is untenable, particularly since it includes massive walls of separation, expanding settlements, and violent extremism that often targets civilians.

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Sojourners Magazine January 2005
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Eye On Zion

The Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem hosted more than 500 representatives from 31 countries in April to

The Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem hosted more than 500 representatives from 31 countries in April to address the dangers of Christian Zionism. "Christian Zionism is a modern theological and political movement that embraces the most extreme ideological positions of Zionism," said conference leaders, "thereby becoming detrimental to a just peace within Palestine and Israel."

Amid a worsening situation for Palestinians, Sabeel identified Christian Zionism as a demon within the ranks of Western Christianity that silently but actively legitimizes Israel's violent policies toward Palestinians. Conference participants said that Christian Zionism promotes a worldview that identifies the gospel "with the ideology of empire, colonialism, and militarism. In its extreme form, it places an emphasis on apocalyptic events leading to the end of history rather than living Christ's love and justice today." Palestinian participants from the West Bank were unable to attend due to Israeli military closures.

In the United States, 50 leaders of evangelical, mainline, Orthodox, and Catholic churches signed a letter to President Bush in May seeking intervention on behalf of the Palestinian Christian community. Services to Christians and non-Christians in Palestine are severely restricted by lack of access to visas, increased taxes, and the Israeli security wall.

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Sojourners Magazine August 2004
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Dividing the Conquered

While peace negotiations between Palestinians and the Israeli government teeter on the brink of collapse, construction of Ariel Sharon's 220-mile-long "wall of protection" relentlessly continues. Hundreds of yards of concrete and steel are erected every day, with the purported goal of protecting Israelis from Palestinian terrorists.

In fact, the wall as planned will be entirely inside Palestinian land—dividing Palestine from itself and usurping Palestinian territory in violation of the internationally recognized 1967 borders. In many cases the wall separates villages from their water supplies, children from their schools, workers from their jobs, and farmers from their land. After three generations of occupation, Palestinians will spend even more time at checkpoints and in lengthy detours, all under the scrutiny of Israeli soldiers in elevated watchtowers who will monitor Palestinian land—and apply lethal force if they choose.

Israel's desire for security is understandable, but building a wall to further imprison the Palestinian people is the wrong way to get there. Only a just peace agreement will provide real security—for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

If completed, Israel's wall will be 220 miles long and 25 feet high—three times as long and twice as high as the Berlin Wall—with a 30-to-100-yard-wide militarized "dead zone." Tens of thousands of trees are being removed in the construction process, and the effect on the watershed will be disastrous.

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Sojourners Magazine November-December 2003
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Open Season on Activists?

Standing for peace in a war zone is never easy, but it's becoming next to impossible for Middle East human rights groups. Israel has instituted a new wave of restrictions on internationals who want to enter the region, citing that the presence of groups such as the International Solidarity Movement endangers Israeli soldiers and the groups' own members. In May, Israeli soldiers raided ISM offices in the West Bank, arresting one Palestinian and two foreign volunteers, one of whom is awaiting deportation. The government maintains that tough policies, such as arrests and deportations, are necessary due to legitimate security concerns. For example, a British suicide bomber's recent attack on a nightclub followed quickly on the heels of the deaths and injuries of several foreign activists. Peace groups, however, believe the intent of the crackdown is to remove eyewitnesses from the region and prevent scrutiny of the conduct of the Israeli Defense Force. At a recent press conference, peace groups called on Israel to lift the new restrictions. "Human rights monitoring should be part and parcel of the road map to peace," said Rory Mungoven of Human Rights Watch.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 2003
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