In his presentation at Christ at the Checkpoint 2018, Michael Brown remarked on what he termed the ‘Palestinian celebration of violence’ asking, “Will you renounce the celebration of terrorism?” On the face of it this seems a reasonable request, even a demand. However, the remark and request could be reversed to ask the same of Zionist Israel. Will Israel stop celebrating violence, will it renounce and cease its terrorising activities in Gaza and in the Palestinian Territories? Sadly, like too many Messianic Jews, Michael Brown’s compassion seemed limited principally to Jews.

Let’s dig a little deeper. Mr Brown was speaking to an international audience but directly to Palestinian Christians. Palestinian Christians renounced violence over 30 years ago, even though resistance to occupation is legal under international law. In 1940 Britain approved and supported the French resistance movement against Nazi Germany, and, more recently, when Saddam Hussein’s Iraq occupied Kuwait the US formed an international force to evict him.  In America, Mr Brown’s home, Christians seem to be overwhelmingly in favour of violence, as witness the often very explicit support for recent US attacks in Syria for example.

Deeper still, if you have read Tom Suarez, ‘State of Terror’, let me assure you he does not ‘over-egg the pudding’. Having checked many of his references in the British National Archives I can confirm that he does not exaggerate. The Zionist state was birthed in violence and terror, fully anticipated by the Zionist leadership. Does Jewish Messianism require that Jesus’ bias to the weak and marginalised be turned on its head or will Mr. Brown equally require from Israel a renunciation of violence, including action on ‘settler violence’, and a recognition and apology for Israel’s ‘terrifying’ history?

It seems that some of the problem for Mr Brown is the payment by the Palestinian Authority of pensions to families of those regarded as ‘martyrs’ by Palestinians but as terrorists by Israel. There are at least two difficulties here: one of definition and the other of humanity. The first problem is that Israel’s governments regard all Palestinians as terrorists, either actual or potential; although contradictorily their security wall (separation barrier) encroaches so far into the West Bank that at least 200,000 Palestinians are on the ‘wrong’ side. Recent events in Gaza, where medics who were killed or injured by Israeli snipers have been defined by Israel as members of Hamas, confirm this Israeli policy: It is ‘Catch 22’ for Palestinians.

The outcry against pensions is a simplistic view taking no account of circumstances. At the level of humanity pensions paid by the Palestinian Authority may be the only regular income a family receives. Family members may be imprisoned by Israel, often using ‘Administrative Detention’, for which no evidence of crime is necessary! Apparently some 40% of the male Palestinian population have an Israeli prison record and a Palestinian with a criminal record will not be granted a permit to work in Israel. Unemployment is high throughout the West Bank; does Mr Brown want these families’ members to starve?  Is this the “way of the Lord”?   To deprive them of the means to live may be illegal, it is certainly immoral and unbiblical.

Michael Brown’s ‘charge’ also ignores what should be the equally abhorrent Israeli attitude to soldiers who commit war crimes, often amounting to murder. They are rarely charged, and on those occasions they are, if convicted they receive short sentences which are often commuted in the face of public outcry. Mr. Brown would have served his cause better were his demands equitable.

Mr Brown’s ultimate argument is the time-worn “you may be fighting the very sovereign purposes of God”. Well, so we may, but are we fighting for or against? It is worth repeating here that Mr Brown’s definition of ‘Replacement Theology’ leaves no space for anything other than Christian Zionism.   If the theology doesn’t agree with Christian Zionism then according to Mr Brown, it must be replacement theology.  Supposing Mr Brown to be correct all the major evangelical theologians I’ve read must be mistaken. For what it’s worth, in my view both Replacement Theology and Christian Zionism are mistaken, probably heretical, and certainly unhelpful to our Gospel mission.

Mr Brown claimed that Israel faces an ‘existential threat’ with over 200,000 missiles aimed at it. It could very reasonably be argued that any threat Israel faces is substantially self-inflicted. There have been a number of occasions since 1967 when Israel could have concluded peace with Palestine. It is usually believed that it is the Palestinians who have been resistant. Any reasonable review would conclude that responsibility should at least be shared. A seriously balanced review would say that, as the weaker, injured party, the Palestinians are less responsible. As for the missiles, it would be informative to know the source of that data and whether it has been confirmed by major intelligence agencies

What is without question is that Israel has over 200 nuclear warheads and the capacity to deliver them, together with a top of the range anti-missile defence system. What may be less well-known is that Israel has highly developed niche military capabilities sourced to many countries. Those nations have an investment in Israel that they would wish to protect. An attack on Israel would result in devastating reprisal. Further, any threat from a Muslim nation – rather than IS – must account for the close presence in Israel-Palestine of many Muslims and of the third holiest site in Sunni Islam: Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa compound. Are they going to risk destroying the latter and major harm to the former?

Sadly, this is one delegate who did not find Mr Brown’s contribution especially helpful. It is to be hoped that the contacts he made and the gracious reception he received will enable him to see more clearly – through ‘neighbourly’ eyes; a challenge both for him and perhaps more so for the constituency he sought to represent.

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