David Gushee – Zionisms and the quest for peace

This is the last in a series of four columns about my recent trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories. It reflects on the disturbing role of Jewish and Christian Zionism in worsening the conflict in this complex land.

A casual newspaper reader might think there are two discrete places called “Israel” and “the Palestinian territories” but a visitor soon discovers the intertwining of these populations. That intertwining could be a good thing. There were parts of uncontested Israeli territory that we visited in which Jews and “Arabs”/Palestinians live near one another without a problem.

But a visitor soon discovers that “the West Bank,” which is supposed to belong to a future Palestinian state, has been intentionally populated over the last 40 years by hundreds of thousands of Jewish “settlers” in dozens of civilian communities. They are able to take this land because Israel has occupied it since its military victories in 1967, even though it is still Palestinian territory under international law.

The Jewish settlers have a variety of motives for taking up residence in land that is not supposed to belong to them. Some are motivated by Israeli government policies that simply make living in a settlement a more affordable option — no small matter in a country in which housing prices and the cost of living have driven hundreds of thousands of protesting Israelis into the streets in recent months.

But most Jews who move into settlements within Palestinian territories are motivated by some form of Zionist ideology.

Secular Zionists believe that Israel should possess the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, for historic, political or security reasons. Modern Israel was founded mainly by secular Zionists, though most had limited, pragmatic hopes about how much of their ancient homeland Jews would or should occupy.

Religious Jewish Zionists believe that the modern state of Israel has been given title in perpetuity to all of the land specified in a few key biblical texts. They come to Israel — often from the United States — in order to help advance the modern fulfillment of this divine mandate.

Christian Zionists, mainly from the United States, play a significant role in supporting Jewish Zionism. They read the Bible to support expansive and totalistic Jewish claims to the land, usually in tandem with some version of dispensational eschatology that interprets the birth of modern Israel as part of the last days.

Read HERE the rest of this article.

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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