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Bible scholars: Zionists have 'weaponized' scripture
Published Friday 22/11/2013 (updated) 02/12/2013 12:09
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Rev. Naim Ateek preaches at the opening ceremony of Sabeel's
9th international conference, saying: "The Bible has been used to
justify slavery, war, apartheid, silencing of women, and now the
oppression and killing of the Palestinians" (MaanImages/FOSNA)

JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- "Anti-Palestinianism" has become a theological issue, Palestinian Bible scholar Yohanna Katanacho said at an international conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

Hundreds of participants from all over the world gathered this week for Sabeel's ninth international conference, where theologians spoke about the Bible's role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The conference marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of Sabeel, an ecumenical Christian community center that promotes Palestinian liberation theology.

"How do we really deal with the Bible when people are using it to justify the oppression of the Palestinians?" Sabeel founder Naim Ateek asks.

The conference, held Nov. 19-24 at Jerusalem's Notre Dame Center, is an attempt to answer Ateek's question.



"One bad (theological) interpreter is worse than 100 terrorists," Katanacho said during a panel discussion.

He said that some Israeli theologians "strive to establish a particular reading of biblical history in order to gain political advantage."

"Such reading strategies put (Palestinians) at a disadvantage. They are perceived as the Canaanites or Philistines," he said, referring to enemies of the biblical Israelites.

"Some Palestinians are tempted to play this history game and argue they were in the land before the ancient children of Israel, as if an ancient historical presence is the basis for contemporary human rights, including the right to own your own home that you inherited from your grandfather or grandmother."

Also speaking Wednesday was American Evangelical scholar Gary Burge.

"When we have a conversation about the Christian church and the land, we have to be adept at how we use the Bible," Burge said at a panel discussion on biblical authority.

"Here in Israel-Palestine," Burge said, "the Bible consistently serves special interests."

Burge stressed that all readers of the Bible "look at these scriptures through a lens, and that lens will bring distortion."

"I think this explains the frequent abuse and misuse of the Bible throughout history," he said. "Perhaps the Bible has been weaponized."

Rethinking Christian Zionism

Christian Zionism, the belief that the modern State of Israel is a manifestation of God's biblical promise to the Jews, is a powerful force in American politics. The largest pro-Israel lobbying group in the US is not a Jewish but Christian organization: Christians United for Israel.

Among a community typically characterized by Christian Zionism and unconditional support for Israel, Burge is one of Israel's most prominent Evangelical critics.

"For centuries we've been reading the Bible quite differently," Burge told Ma'an. "And we have suddenly in America inherited a perspective on Israel and the Bible that is truly foreign to the history of the church tradition."

Burge said that while not all Christian Zionists weaponize scripture, some do.

"Rather than being a book of life and hope," he said the Bible "becomes a book of privilege and entitlement."

It is difficult for Evangelicals to look at the Israel-Palestine issue differently than from the "Zionist" perspective they've "inherited," Burge said.

"It's the David and Goliath paradigm," he said. "What if somebody came along and said that actually David was Goliath, and Goliath was David? And if you reverse that paradigm, that takes courage. You're upsetting someone's worldview."


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1 ) Bob / USA
22/11/2013 19:15
All wars are fought over: Who's going to collect taxes here. The War for the Land has been won by the Jews and the Arabs will get only what the victory of the Jews offers them. Nothing more. Christian Zionist support Israel because they worship the God of Israel.

2 ) A shtyfer mogn / UK
22/11/2013 19:50
Do these dignitaries not think it would be incumbent to include Hebrew text on the banner behind them on the podium? Or do they just not give any considerations to what Israelis think about their international conference in Jerusalem?

3 ) Colin Wright / USA
22/11/2013 20:48
What makes it all especially aggravating is that the whole thing seems to have been more or less fabricated around the sixth-fifth century BC and refers to events that can be demonstrated to have not occurred. One might as well earnestly attempt to determine the rights and wrongs of who should rule Britain by consulting the 'Tales of King Arthur.'

4 ) Colin Wright / USA
22/11/2013 20:51
It's the intellectual equivalent of Creationism -- only in this case it's not a matter of printing coloring books showing Adam and Eve playing with dinosaurs. It's a matter of using the nonsense to crush millions of people underfoot and grind one's boot into their faces in perpetuity. It is, in short, profoundly evil.

5 ) Zionist / USA
22/11/2013 21:21
OK, doesn't it strike one as ironic that the severe condemnation of Israeli State takes place in Israeli capitol? Would similiar conference challenging Koran could have been held in any of the Muslim countries around the world? Since we know the answers, what do they tell us about religious tolerance and acceptance of Christianity by the Jewish State versus (any) Muslim State?

6 ) Johnny benson / USA
22/11/2013 22:10
From the beginning of time...the victor of the wars became the rulers of the land...as bob so aptly put it....only here , only because the Israelis are so soft hearted,the losers keep demanding that the rules be changed...they want to keep what they lost...and demand the right to terrorize the victors...any other set of victors would have shoved these demanding losers out the door to other places..or have killed them...but no...the Jews just ring their hands,and worry what the world might think

7 ) Colin Wright / USA
22/11/2013 22:22
To Bob #1: 'All wars are fought over: Who's going to collect taxes here.' No -- and that's precisely the distinction. History is full of conquerors who have set themselves up at the top of the heap and then let things go on more or less as they always did. Zionism is something different -- just as Nazism was something different. It aspires to the wholesale expulsion or extirpation of the conquered people.

8 ) Colin Wright / USA
22/11/2013 22:25
To a shtyfer mogn #2: 'Or do they just not give any considerations to what Israelis think about their international conference in Jerusalem?' There's no more point in consulting Zionists about what they think now than there was reason to consult the Nazis about what THEY thought in 1943. We know what they want.

9 ) Blake / UK
22/11/2013 22:47
The zionist agenda through deception thou doest wars - pitting the goyim against goyim

10 ) tr / tr
23/11/2013 00:00
evangelists zionism is heresy.not christianity

11 ) Michael / Daniel 12:1
23/11/2013 02:54
It is the misuse through misinterpretation of the Holy Scriptures that opens the door to these injustices. those misinterpretations are as the result of guessing at a sealed book. when Christ comes he will loose the seals on the book and reveal the truth. all will be judged by that truth. It is that day of reckoning now, soon upon us, that will judge the hearts and deeds of all, to that of good or evil. That time of trouble such as never before is right at the door.

12 ) ian / australia
23/11/2013 08:31
#2 "Do these dignitaries not think it would be incumbent to include Hebrew text on the banner behind them on the podium? Or do they just not give any considerations to what Israelis think about their international conference in Jerusalem?" Can't stand being left out, huh? Or that it's not about YOU? But the irony is, it IS. I suppose some Hebrew on the banner might have been a courtesy, but think about it: the conference is ABOUT what Jews think and how they use the Bible for political ends.

13 ) ian / australia
23/11/2013 08:36
(contd.) Getting all inclusive and opening it up to hear the Israeli point of view would have bogged it down in the same old mire of obnoxious, devious, egotistical, bullying, propagandistic sludge (imagine Alan Dershowitz being invited to say a few words, or Elie Wiesel) the conference was held to examine.

14 ) ian / australia
23/11/2013 09:53
Here's a fun fact. Israeli Jews love to mock Christianity. The Notre Dame Center where the conference was held is a grand 19th Century French pilgrim hostel with a huge statue of Mary holding the Christ child aloft, sort of presenting him to the world from the highest point in Jerusalem...provoking Israeli tour guides, apparently affronted by this, to make contemptuous jokes like, "Who holds a baby like that... except for Michael Jackson?" and sneering variations thereof.

15 ) Isaac Galili / Israel
23/11/2013 18:14
#Ian of Australia: thank you for your honesty. The conference was indeed about "the Jews" so why be inclusive indeed? Why bring those obnoxious, bullying, egotistical, "sludge" Jews into a conference that is indeed all about them and their truly "primitive" theology (Ateek's words)? But, we are used to Christians doing this, right down from the Crusades, to the Inquisition, expulsions, forced conversions, massacres and ultimately the Holocaust. So, one way or another, you do include us.

16 ) Hugh Beaumont / USA
23/11/2013 19:05
There's an element in the Christian Zionist viewpoint that is hidden and never brought to the surface, viz., eternal life - not an "afterlife", but freedom from earthly death. If they can get a chain reaction of violence going, then (allegedly), Jesus will come back, and they will be raptured. (Adios amigos - sorry I can't stick around for the bloodbath) This is their "dirty little secret".

17 ) Yisrael Medad / Israel
23/11/2013 21:17
"upsetting"? that's completely reversing history and Bible

18 ) JoeFattal / USA
23/11/2013 22:48
Israel by using religion will keep the conflict forever. Diplomatically they might lose ground, but they always find a way to turn to religion to continue and keep justifying they policies for as long as they can. They been doing for years. They are not building settlements to give them back to the Palestinians, and they will drag the situation on the ground as long as the Bible exist. Maybe we need a new Bible, eliminating the freebies that the Jews are taking for granted.

19 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
23/11/2013 23:14
Colin Wright talks about "crush millions of people underfoot and grind one's boot into their faces in perpetuity." I was certain he was talking about himself and what he and his fellow white immigrant settler Americans did and are still doing to the native Americans and Blacks. The American model is an interesting one, since buffoons like Colin pretend they have the high moral ground. Not so, since Colin's boots are still crushing the native Americans.

20 ) the bible / what a rag
24/11/2013 00:46
Chosen to be evil and destructive .

21 ) to JoeFattal / Daniel 12:1
24/11/2013 02:18
No new bible needed just the real interpretation of the one we have.

22 ) to Hugh Beaumont / Daniel 12:1
24/11/2013 02:30
That's the only reason Christian Zionist support Zionism is to get what they want just as you have stated. That's why so many of them jumped on the 1948 Zionist state formation as a starting point to their eschatological views of bible prophecy. however when their 40 year generation didn't materialize in 1987/88 they soon abandoned that theory for the 40 years from 1967 theory which again failed in 2007. all they can hope for now is A BIG BIG WAR, just as you say.

23 ) Colin Wright / USA
24/11/2013 03:43
To JoeFattal #18: ' but they always find a way to turn to religion to continue and keep justifying they policies for as long as they can. They been doing for years.' It's worth pointing out that Zionism began as an avowedly anti-religious movement. Given that, there's a decided whiff of hypocrisy in their proclamations. In fact, they PERVERT religion, and make it serve ends that are spiritually foul.

24 ) ian / australia
24/11/2013 04:49
#15 "Ian of Australia: thank you for your honesty." You're welcome, Isaac, but one small point. My "sludge" remark refers to the predictable, turgid line of argument a hardline Zionist would bring to the proceedings. Think Bibi. Sort of intellectual "sludge". It's not really about Jews. Sabeel wouldn't want John Hagee on the podium either...though I'm sure they would like Israel Finkelstein or Shlomo Sand or even Rabbi Froman from Tekoa...if he was alive, may his soul rest in perfect peace.

25 ) ian / australia
24/11/2013 08:13
#5 "OK, doesn't it strike one as ironic...etc." Not really, 'Zionist'. It just means Israel, when it's not shutting down puppet shows in East Jerusalem, has laudable, modern laws protecting free speech. That it's more enlightened than Saudi Arabia shouldn't really be such a source of national kvelling. I mean, could the bar be any lower? Also, the conference isn't about "challenging" the Bible; it's about exposing the devious ways Zionists use it to justify their crimes. It's about

26 ) ian / australia
24/11/2013 08:19
(contd.) its perversion...its cynical enlistment by atheistic Jews as a weapon to crush the Palestinians.

27 ) TaniasTitz / Germany
24/11/2013 10:31
This is just a 21st century inquisition. The Jewish peoples have had this pejorative behaviour throughout the two thousand years of Christendom.

28 ) ian / australia
24/11/2013 13:12
#6 "From the beginning of time...the victor of the wars became the rulers of the land...only because the Israelis are so soft hearted,the losers keep demanding that the rules be changed...they want to keep what they lost...and demand the right to terrorize the victors..." Hello in there Johnny. Tell me, what colour is the sky in your world?

29 ) ian / australia
24/11/2013 13:45
#17 ' "upsetting"? that's completely reversing history and Bible' But Yisrael, the story of David and Goliath has nothing remotely to do with history. It's a story probably written by the waters of Babylon in the 6th Century BC by Levites inventing their glorious past. It's about mythical figures and a mythical battle set 600 years earlier...and written at a time without records when people had no way of knowing what happened 600 years ago. But the point is US evangelicals, a vast yokel army,

30 ) ian / australia
24/11/2013 13:45
(contd.) have been fed the story, since 1948, of plucky little David/Israel menaced by monstrous Arab Goliath when in reality the exact opposite has been true for decades.

31 ) ABE / USA
24/11/2013 18:42
Again after all the arguments on both sides presented here. Ian/australia boils it all down to David and Goliath. I again state that if you want to make it that. there are 8 million ISRAELI'S (including Arabs) and over 160 million Arabs. So I guess we must go to the Bible and YES David WON!!!

32 ) Robert / US
26/11/2013 02:05
#31 Abe , to bad its a fable,fiction.. the stories aren't factual.

33 ) Gail / Israel
27/11/2013 13:54
I think it is very interesting how a discussion of Zionism and Christianity and the Palestinian is turning so ugly. As I read more and more of the comments, I was appalled at the language being used - brutal, harsh, and dismissive to anyone making the comments or to whole people groups. The Bible - regardless of any political debates - is about loving your neighbor as yourself, and if we are not doing that, we are being used of the enemy to tear down and destroy.

34 ) Colin Wright / USA
27/11/2013 20:47
To Gail #33: 'As I read more and more of the comments, I was appalled at the language being used - brutal, harsh, and dismissive to anyone making the comments or to whole people groups. ' Speaking for myself, the Zionists long ago put themselves far beyond the pale -- and worse, rely on the support of my country to do it. You need to look at the actual moral texture of the parties involved before calling for love and conciliation. This is like supporting your neighborhood child molester.

35 ) ian / australia
28/11/2013 11:23
#31 "...Ian/australia boils it all down to David and Goliath. I again state that if you want to make it that. there are 8 million ISRAELI'S (including Arabs) and over 160 million Arabs. So I guess we must go to the Bible and YES David WON!!!" What does that even mean, Abe? And I didn't "boil it down" to David and Goliath. The article mentioned "upsetting" the "worldview" of Christian evangelicals by pointing to the REAL giant/bully and #17 responded with an incoherent post about (I'm guessing)

36 ) ian / australia
28/11/2013 11:24
(contd.) denying the history in the Bible. But WHY must we "go to the Bible"? It's just a lot of made-up stories, etiological myths, to be fancy, devoid of historical authority. And so what if "David WON!!!". Of course he won. It was made up by Levites (from the tribe of Judah) and David, the mythical king was King of Judah (funny that) conferring royal lineage on the authors. Sort of 5th century power politics.

37 ) ian / australia
28/11/2013 11:24
(contd.) And let's leave your xenophobic vision of Arab hordes ("over 160 million Arabs") out of it. Israel menaces several million, defenseless Palestinians only. And only one giant bully need concern us.

38 ) ian / australia
28/11/2013 22:18
(contd.) the plan by firing on "security officers" in an unprovoked attack, predictably getting themselves killed. Does that make ANY sense?) "One day terrrorists might attack Colin and Maureen in their bid to liberate America and Australia from the contineud occupations." Brian, you do realise the preposterousness of that destroys any sense in the other stuff...and there wasn't much to begin with?

39 ) ian / australia
29/11/2013 00:06
#38 Oops! Wrong story.

40 ) southparkbear / usa
01/12/2013 08:10
as long as the support the tourism in jerusalem

41 ) southparkbear / usa
06/12/2013 23:39
lighten up guys, these are rubber coated verses

42 ) Rene / US
08/12/2013 13:07
If anyone who doesn't know what you're talking about but are discerning and give a damn look on the internet at Christian Zionism/Zionists. They are deluded and they aren't legitimately Christians and my personal opinion is that they are religious subversives and legally State Seditionists. They are betrayers and treasoners.

43 ) jlb / usa
12/12/2013 22:59
Hatred and more hatred in the name of common sense. Most of these commenters should be ashamed of what they write. Unfortunatley, they love their anger and their anti-whatever positions with a passion. There is no love to be found here.

44 ) onequestion to ask / USA
16/12/2013 22:30
Ask a Christian Zionist whether or not the Jews, those whom you fight tooth and nail for, are saved, even if they do not take Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and see how much they love them. The Jews know the answer pretty well (check out the NPR report on their conference) but these fanatic anti-Palestinians pump over 5 billion dollars in their economy every year plus all the important moral and political support in the court of public opinion. It could not be more perverse than this

45 ) stink / hole
17/12/2013 15:04
An illegal Garrison religious state...
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