In all these things my fellow peace-maker Stephen excels. Over the years he has shown both courage and good-will, but most important, in my mind, he has provided us with tough analysis, primarily around issues dealing with Christian Zionism, a fundamental obstacle to a just peace in Israel and Palestine, that helps us get to the foundations of the conflict in order to resolve it. One would think Stephen’s work would be appreciated by everyone – Christian Zionists excepted, (although a sizeable number of critical Evangelicals do support his analysis). His seminal book, Christian Zionism, accompanied by films and presentations, provides an authoritative de-bunking of the spurious theology underlying that school’s seemingly “pro-Israeli” positions which make genuine peace-making so difficult.
Why Stephen is attacked and demonized by the organized Jewish community is an absolute mystery to me. After all, Christian Zionism is supremely anti-Semitic: at the End of Days those Jews who do not accept Jesus die. Indeed, the Jews are sacrificed in the battle of Armageddon; witness Pat Robertson’s outrage at Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert when he ended the attack on Lebanon in 2006, an attack that, in the eyes of Robertson and other Christian Zionists, was supposed to trigger Armageddon – no matter what befalls the Jews/Israelis. Jewish demonization of Stephen, rather than of the Christian Zionists, who Jewish and Israeli leaders cynically consider our allies,” demonstrates nothing more than bad faith. It is perfectly acceptable, apparently, to be anti-Semitic if, like Robertson, you are “pro-Israel.” Simply professing a doctrine in which the Jewish people is exterminated and disappears is no crime, in their view, as long as it somehow serves short-term Israeli interests (and Stephen shows that Christian Zionism does not serve Israeli or Jewish interests in any way). Ironically, then, it is the peace-makers – anti-anti-Semites like Stephen and even critical Israeli Jews like me – who are the enemy. If that is the case, then all the protestations of the Jewish community against anti-Semitism are hollow. What they really mean is, be anti-Semitic by all means if you combine that with a pro-Israeli position, but woe be unto those who fight such an anti-Semitic creed as Christian Zionism because by opposing Christian Zionism you are somehow opposing Israel. In attacking Stephen in his criticism of Christian Zionism, Jewish leaders have gone so far as to define “pro-Israeliness” in anti-Semitic terms.
But peace-makers are themselves tough people, willing and able to face down bigotry and bad faith. Indeed, this willingness and ability are what makes us peace-makers. To the organized Jewish community I would only say, as an Israeli Jew: remove your moral and intellectual blinders so as to be able to differentiate your true (if critical) friends from you true enemies.
29th March 2012
Permission to publish this letter was obtained from the author and recipient.
Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok
Professor Ilan Pappe
Dr Jeff Halper
Dr Mark Braverman
Rabbi Dr Stanley Howard Schwartz