Priestly priority: 1 Jew, 2 Muslim, 3 Christian

Did a Jew lately kill someone for being Christian? Was one Israeli Christian converted to Judaism under pain of death?

Steve Apfel ,

View of Bethlehem
View of Bethlehem

When Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu cried “impossible people” everyone knew he was talking about Jews. They were persecuting Palestinian Muslims. It had to stop. One day God would make them stop.

When Frank Chikane, holder of high office in the World Council of Churches (WCC) spoke of “demons” and vowed that “blood will be sought from them” he again harped on the Jews. And so on as many clerics and church bodies do.

At this point article writers get to the point which they, and we, have waited for. Singling out Israel! Why do clerics not denounce abuse of Palestinian rights in Gaza? If they really cared about Palestinians, what about those in Arab countries denied citizenship? If that conclusion was as valuable to the world as to the commentator, it would surely have had Israel-hating clerics scuttling for cover.

The ‘what about?’ conclusion is easy to draw. What is obvious takes no thought. Critics of Israel have a double standard; are hypocrites. When article writers get to those words their spirits rise, and though ours may sink we get a lift. Critics of Israel are mostly anti-Semites with double standards. Here is the latest simple writer at work.

What he says is accurate, but all is useless. It leaves us with understanding but no insight.

What is it about Israel, apart from being Jewish, that makes clerics treat this one country like poison?

To begin: Christian clerics are not like Muslims. They have no record of caring for their own endangered people. They’ll remember to pray for them, perhaps. But picket embassies, occupy piazzas, marshal the media into battle, take the UN by storm? Never.

Yet Christendom ought to be on life support in the third world. Reports on the war-torn Middle East confirm genocide in the proper sense of the word. If the PC media covered it, if PC leaders spoke of it, all would know and leaders might step up to the plate.

In the last century Christians made up 20% of people in the Middle East and North Africa. Today the proportion is around 4%. Christians killed for being what they are went up by 60% in one year alone. Open Doors USA released the 2021 World Watch List, in which countries that are bad news for a Christian are named. The sub-continent and North Africa are right up there with the worst.

What have clerics done about it? Pakistan did erupt in protest; otherwise the hallmark behavior has been passivity. "Everyone is ignoring the growing danger to Christians in Muslim countries,” bewailed Bishop Mano Rumalshah of Peshawar. “European countries don't give a damn about us."

Not quite. The Archbishop of Canterbury gave a damn. Though his words would have brought cold comfort to the bereaved and afflicted, they do help to understand the clerical mindset.

This is what Archbishop Justin Welby, head of the Anglican Church, had to say after seeing the mass graves of latter day martyrs. “I have no illusions about this. But historically the right response of Christians to persecution and attack is — it’s the hardest thing we can ever say to people, but Jesus tells us to love our enemies. It’s the hardest thing when you’re violently attacked. It’s an indescribable challenge. But God gives grace so often for that – to love our enemies.”

Did a Jew lately kill someone for being Christian? Was one Israeli Christian converted to Judaism under pain of death?
Hold onto Welby the consoler of Christians drowning in blood while we revert to a nation with a bad smell in clerical nostrils. Did a Jew lately kill someone for being Christian? Was one Israeli Christian converted to Judaism under pain of death? Yet churchmen aim their missiles where?

The Rev David Kim, head of the World Evangelical Alliance is another Tutu, who takes aim at the ‘impossible people’. “How to Deal with the Impossible People – A Biblical Perspective,” was the title of Kim’s paper at a Bethlehem conference. Ha – Muslims rooting up two thousand years of Christianity, you’d be given to think. Think again. A banner in the hall explained everything. It had a church and a cross imposed over a menacing-looking part of Israel’s anti-terror barrier. Kim’s paper was about how to deal with the Jews.

That is odd because in one shoelace thin land alone in a vast Christian graveyard, Christianity has prospered. In 1949, Israel had 34,000 people of that faith. Today they number some 170,000. In this awkward haven, freedom to practice religion is guaranteed. Access to holy sites has the force of law. And what draws more visitors to Israel than Holy Land tourism? Tiberias and Nazareth and Jerusalem practically live off pilgrimages. Under the ‘impossible people’ Christianity is alive and well.

Men of the cloth, with all that God-endowed grace for loving your murderous enemy, have you no love leftover for a friend! Only heed your imperiled flock in Palestine and save a little Christian love for them.

Will clerics heed their flock in Palestine? Out of Gaza and Ramallah come leaks and whispers, hole-in-the wall fear-ridden testimonies, tearful stories told behind locked doors. Who knows the totality of fear, cruelty, confiscation, assault, homicide perpetrated on reclusive Christian pockets? Who cares to know? When did the media run a story on the torments of Gaza’s few remaining Christian souls; or on Bethlehem’s decimated long-time majority of Christian Arabs? When will men of the cloth sound the alarm?

Tutu may feel love for Muslims, the persecutors of his faith, but not for the impossible Jews. He finds them more than impossible. “The Jews think they have a monopoly of God. Jesus was angry that they could shut out other human beings."

Meanwhile the Palestinian Arabs of Gaza, on whom the cleric with a grin showers love, have made half his flock flee for their lives. Decorations for Christmas are banned and public crucifixes forbidden. Hamas has made the few remaining Christians in Gaza open season. The owner of Gaza’s only Christian bookstore was murdered and his little store burnt to the ground.

"We pray for all those Palestinians whose homes have been demolished and those who have been driven away. For Palestinians who suffer because of the separation wall and settlements and for those who have lost their jobs and suffer from poverty, hunger and thirst, we pray to you, O God.” Here’s a psalm to bring the loving spirit Welby preaches into the hearts of the flock. The words come from a liturgy composed by the World Council of Churches. The authors were Anglican, Evangelical Lutheran and Catholic, and they were helped by a committee headed by Kairos. Kairos, if you don’t know, is the body that lobbied church synods to declare the occupying Jews a sinful people.

For anti-Israel clerics all roads lead to Bethlehem. They come not to defend the faith but to promote another Muslim state which would lose no time uprooting it. Defend Christians or attack Jews: for clerics it’s a no-brainer. Can men of the cloth, even pooling their faith, justify the perversity? Can they square the circle of exerting themselves to attack Jews while having no time for Christendom exploding on their doorstep?

Yes they can; by leaning back to a St Augustine doctrine and forward to a modern threesome.

Put together, the modern doctrines do not measure up to St Augustine’s one. Actually they’re more blind faith than doctrine, which is not to say they’re treated less reverently than the Gospels. One doctrine is called Human Rights; a second goes by a trendy catch-all name, ‘Multiculturalism’; while number three, a twisted belief you couldn’t invent if you tried, turns Jesus into a Palestinian.

The human rights doctrine is enshrined in the Kairos Document which borrows the bible to make the political views and world vision of the authors sacred. The effect is to convert Christianity into a human ideology. Bible-thumping clerics borrow their Messiah not to beat swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks; they bring him on for more mundane acts. They ask Jesus to walk through a military checkpoint in the West Bank. At Bethlehem’s ‘Christ at the Checkpoint Conference’ clerics deliberated what Jesus would do and say if he had to cope daily with Israeli checkpoints. How would the ‘Son of God’ cope with the anger and bitterness that Palestinians experience.

Munther Isaac, Dean at Bethlehem Bible College, puts his feet in the Messiah’s big shoes. Jesus would hate Israel.

An Easter sermon painted human rights in biblical colors that are blinding. “It seems that Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him. The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily”. Naim Ateek a Christian Arab, weaves the Gospel narrative into anti-Israel screed.

On the other hand the United Church of Christ (UCC) takes a modern line, embarrassed by bible references to Jews in a land they were supposed to have thieved off the natives in the 20th Century. Bravely political, it cooks up a hostile omelet of Israeli colonizers and Apartheid addicts.

Apparently, then, selective outrage for Palestinians living under Jews, though far better off than those rotting and dying under Muslims, is one way to get to heaven. Curse Israel and Grace will come to you.

Just how elastic is the figure of Jesus? How far can it be stretched and remain credible? Believe it – a little of Jesus goes a long way, far enough to be a reborn Palestinian. Leaders claim that, in all seriousness. "Jesus was a Palestinian." Yasser Arafat’s PR woman Hannan Ashrawi disclosed the astounding fact to the Washington Jewish Week on February 22, 2001, and it did not even make headlines. Ashrawi was not the first, or the last, to bring Him into the fold. “Every Christmas, Palestine celebrates the birth of one of its own, Jesus Christ,” proclaimed the PLO’s statement for Christmas 2013. I don’t know if anyone has made Jesus into a Muslim, but the PLO seems to leave that possibility wide open.

Some people will not stop to ponder the absurdity of a Palestinian "Christ". For one thing, how to hook him up to the gospel narrative of the Jewish parents, Joseph and Mary? Secondly, how to explain Jesus celebrating the Passover seder in his ‘Last Supper?’

Perhaps a third doctrine stands on studier legs. Woke ‘Multiculturalism’ or ‘Diversity’ could stand the test of time. Here the rulebook is short but strict: pay homage to Islamophobia. Bowing to the “I” word comes down to being ultra careful not to offend Muslim sensitivity. Islamists burn, behead and crucify infidels to near extinction yet the Pope utters hardly a peep. Britain’s National Union of Students (NUS), no Christian body, may as well have spoken for one when it refused to condemn Islamic State (IS). It would be Islamophobic, said student leaders.

The rule not to offend different cultures, though strict, is hardly consistent. Towards people of one faith the rule is ultra lax. If Muslims are off limits and sacrosanct, you’re allowed to say what you like about Jews, provided you call them Israelis or better, Zionists. Groups that tiptoe around Muslims have no qualms condemning Jews. The NUS that wouldn’t condemn ISIS, supports a boycott of Israel. So Judaeophobia does not rank with Islamophobia in the greater scheme of things.

Those were newish doctrines telling Christians to love an enemy and hate a friend. A really old doctrine calls for serious consideration. Christianity at one time held it as an article of faith. Augustine in the 4th century made the exile of the Jews a principle of theology.

Long after him, Pope Pious X at an audience with Theodore Herzl in 1904, said: “The Jews, who should have been the first to acknowledge Jesus Christ, have not done so to this day. And so if you come to Palestine and settle your people there, we will be ready with churches and priests to baptize all of you.”

A journal at the time asserted that the Jews “must always live dispersed and vagrant among the other nations so that they may render witness to Christ by their very existence.” Hence the Vatican’s refusal to recognize the new Israel in 1948 was not pro-Arab bias, but a matter of dogma.

The WCC, the Presbyterians of America, the Greek Orthodox Church and many clerics, think in St Augustine's terms. Get the hell out of Palestine! After you rejected the Son of God your place as the Chosen People was taken by the Church. Return to being the witness wanderers God meant you to be.

Israel’s rise from Holocaust ashes troubles secular anti-Zionists in a similar way. For anti-Zionists the problem is not doctrinal but perceptual. They are unable to come to terms with the military Jew. Jews are not meant to be stronger than their persecutors. The stereotype of the Jew of old – that bearded bookish stateless wanderer – could never have evolved into a mean machine. What vinegary thoughts turn on Israel, what sourball gaze at the juggernaut Jew. Get the hell out! Go back to your natural born fate.

With biblical fire clerics seek to punish the un-chosen people. Your destiny was never to make the desert bloom; to build a Tel Aviv of Manhattan skyscrapers; to win Nobel Prizes by the wheelbarrow full; to boast a bustling high-tech economy with a currency stronger than Europe’s.

The pores of Israel-hating clerics leak not envy but error, the faith-losing error of dogma. Hence the dogmatic angst and bluster towards friendly Israel: the spoilage of the plot, the shattering of the icon.

Steve Apfel is an economist and a cost accountant, but most of all a prolific author of non-fiction and fiction, published in many journals and sites. His books include: ‘The Paymaster’ (Fiction); Hadrian’s Echo (Non-fiction); ‘A bias thicker than faith’ (non-fiction, for publication during 2020), and ‘Balaam’s curse’ a WIP biblical novel