Via: Avigail Abarbanel.
Over the years I have received many messages from pro-Zionist fundamentalist Christians and have found their views puzzling. This piece sets out my thoughts and feelings in response.
I recently wrote an article that compared Gaza to the Warsaw ghetto. Among the responses was the usual collection of Christian fundamentalist messages. I will not comment on the literal belief in the Book of Revelations, and ideas about the impending Armageddon and the end of days. This I leave to Sociologists and Social Psychologists who study religious sects and their fascination with doomsday scenarios and the end of the world.
But I do feel disturbed by these messages because more than anything, they show how little progress these widening factions of the fundamentalist Christian world have made since the Middle Ages. I am from a Jewish family, I was born in Israel and spent the first 27 years of my life there. I have never suffered from antisemitism myself but have been taught about it and what it led to namely, the deliberate and systematic attempt to annihilate all Jews everywhere. From the Middle Ages European Jews have suffered anything from discrimination and segregation through to pogroms and expulsions. And this systemic hatred reached a historic apex in the Second World War. My maternal grandparents were survivors of the Shoah and despite all their efforts to re-build their lives in the years following the war, I don’t think they had ever recovered from what they had been through.
European hatred and fear of the Jewish people, discussed, preached, studied, written about and promoted for generations, finally reached a crescendo in the 1930s and 1940s. It was inevitable. You can’t build and fan a fire like this without it eventually consuming everything. After being fed a consistent diet of antisemitism for so long, the Nazis concluded that the world would be better off without Jews. They believed Jews were so despicable, so inferior, so not like them that they took it upon themselves to ‘cleanse’ the world of Jews, to exterminate them as you would a vermin. They believed that the world would be a more peaceful and safer place without Jews. I know that Nazi ideology rejected Christianity but antisemitism was a Christian creation, and it was hundreds of years of Christian antisemitism that finally led to this hideous outcome.
Now I am receiving messages from people who consider themselves Christian, and who tell me that when I criticise Israel I don’t know what I am talking about. They argue that Muslims and Arabs are all really bad people and that I should know better than to object to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. They say that Israel is all good, noble, democratic and even sacred, compared with all the bad Muslim and Arab countries out there. The generalisations are staggering. Cultures that are vastly different are lumped together into one group; the new group of ‘baddies’ that so many now demonise, the new group of people who are not like us. This kind of indiscriminate and ignorant generalisation is one of the hallmarks of true racism.
I agree that any country that does not protect the human rights of its citizens should be criticised. But what I am told repeatedly is that Israel must not be criticised because the Arab countries are so much worse. I respond to this with an analogy: ‘Suppose your child did something wrong, and then when busted he says to you that what he did wasn’t so bad because his friend Johnny did something worse, would you just let it go? Would you let your child escape punishment because his friend did something worse?
This argument is so absurd that I believe it is in fact a cover-up for racism. It’s not about Arab countries being worse than Israel. There are no innocent countries in the world and if we really want to criticise countries for human rights violations, the list would be long. It would include Western countries who routinely violate the human rights of people and groups even beyond their own borders.
But what those people who write to me are really trying to say is that Muslim and Arab countries and societies are somehow less civilised than Western people and societies. They tell me that I should stand shoulder to shoulder with them and support their hatred of Muslims, Palestinians and Arabs in general. They often accuse me of lying about my Jewish background. Some of those who write to me cannot conceive the idea that I can be from a Jewish Israeli family and support the Palestinians. They even call me a Palestinian. They either seriously believe that I would be offended by this, or think that I am really a Palestinian and only pretending to be who I say I am…
I guess these strange religious fanatics think that Israel is doing the world a favour by ridding it of people who are a part of the group that it’s now fashionable and increasingly legitimate to hate. Sounds familiar? I find it incredible that the same people who not that long ago preached such venomous hatred of Jews, now turn the same hatred, the same venom against another group, and it doesn’t matter to me who this group is. These religious fundamentalists are promoting hatred of a group of people whom they believe are less human, or less worthy, less civilised than they are.
Have they learned nothing about what group hatred and racism can lead to? A Christianity that can think like this is no different to the Christianity that not that long ago accused the Jews of killing Christian babies and drinking their blood; a Christianity that tortured and burned people; that routinely led massacres against those it didn’t like. It is a false Christianity that just like its false predecessors has forgotten all about ‘Love thy neighbour’. It is a Christianity without compassion and with no ability to reflect on its own beliefs or see their logical extension. What is it that they really want? Do they really mean for Muslims to be annihilated? Because if they do not, they do need to consider what it is that they are promoting and what it could lead to.
This is a version of Christianity that is based on fear and hatred instead of love and inclusion. It contributes nothing to world peace and to what humanity needs the most, camaraderie, respect, and cooperation, the sort of things that I believe Jesus stood for. The way some people write makes me worry that they actually get a kick out of the hatred and fear they express. They do seem to enjoy it.
I know that many Jews in Israel find it quite amusing and perplexing that all of a sudden they are the flavour of the week with some branches of fundamentalist Christianity, when only yesterday they were the ‘killers of Christ’. Israeli Jews don’t really understand why they are suddenly loved but they count their blessings for the moment and breathe a sigh of relief. They finally have allies who support them in their occupation and gradual destruction of the Palestinian people. And it is convenient because they can cast the colonisation of Palestine and the occupation in the light of a fight between ‘good and evil’, between the ‘civilised West’ (which they believe they are a part of), and the ‘backward Muslims’. Thus they manage to obscure the true reality of the conflict with the Palestinians, which has nothing to do with a fight between Judaism and Islam and everything to do with colonisation and ethnic cleansing. (An almost amusing point I have to make here is that Jewish identity is based so much on fear of antisemitism that when Christians suddenly love Jews, it really confuses things for Jewish-Israel…)
It has been called anti-Islamism, anti-Arabism, but I don’t really care what name people choose to give it. It is the same as the hatred of Jews used to be. It has the same symptoms. It is racism, it is filled with ‘us and them’, with demonisation, and venom and it can lead to genocide.
I am so pleased that so many Jews around the world and in Israel are increasingly taking a stand against this, and are not afraid to criticise Israel. They see it as their duty to stand up not despite of, but because of what the Jewish people have been through.
I just wish every person out there who sees himself or herself as Jewish could find the courage to do the right thing. All Jews must stand together in protest when a new group of victims is being created right in front of us, and when hatred and racism are once again being preached and hyped up. Sighing in relief, ‘Thank God it’s not us any more’ is immoral and irresponsible. Siding with hate-mongering Christian fundamentalism — even if it’s ‘good for Israel’ — is siding with the wrong people.
Never again is not just never again to us, it should be never again, full stop.