Christian Arab citizens of Israel are forming a new political party that calls for Arab enlistment into the IDF. The party’s Hebrew name — B’nei Brit Hahadasha — means “Sons of the New Testament,” although the word “allies” is hidden in the title as well.
The effort is part of a growing assertiveness on the part of Christian Arabs in the wake of the Arab Spring, as they increasingly sound calls for an identity distinct from Israel’s broader Arab society, which is around 90% Muslim.
This is an interesting development. In the early part of the 20th century, the first stirrings of Palestinian nationalism were found among the Christian community, which was generally better-educated and more politically sophisticated than the Muslims. But the majority Muslims, led by the Nazi al-Husseini, soon picked up the banner, although it was more an anti-Jewish or Arab supremacist one than a ‘Palestinian’ one. That had to wait for Arafat and his creation of the ‘Palestinian people’ as a colonized third-world nation fighting a ‘war of liberation’.
In any event, today’s worldwide civil war between the Sunni and Shiite camps and the ascendance of more aggressive interpretations of Islam has been very hard on Christians in the Middle East. Churches have been destroyed and Christians murdered in Egypt, Gaza, Syria and even Lebanon. Possibly these Israeli Arab Christians realize that their interests are closer to those of the Jewish state than to a Muslim one.
If you believe, as I do, that the world is experiencing an increasingly violent flare-up of the long struggle between Islam and the mostly Christian or secular West, then it makes sense for both Jews and Christians to understand that they are on the same side.
Among those who do not understand this are the liberal Protestant denominations who have been carefully cultivated by Israel’s enemies, both via their concern for ‘human rights’ (greatly misplaced here), and by anti-Jewish theological arguments — so-called ‘replacement theology.
A fascinating case study in liberal protestant anti-Zionism, and its descent into — or exposure as — old-fashioned illiberal Jew-hating is James M. Wall, a contributing editor for the respected publication The Christian Century. Researcher Dexter Van Zile chronicles his journey here, from a mildly pro-Palestinian point of view to flaming Hitlerism in roughly 15 years.
Some Jews, especially intellectuals, have taken a similar path. Of course they are not influenced by replacement theology, but progressive politics and a sense of guilt serve the same function — turning them into Jewish Jew-haters (and they have no love for Christian Zionists, either).
I used to think that the problem was that Arab propaganda was devilishly effective. But actually it is not. The fake ‘history’ of the revisionist historians has holes big enough for real scholars to drive a truck through. The theatrical productions like the ‘death’ of Mohammed al-Dura can be shown to be transparent fakery, for anyone who is willing to listen. And you really have to be stupid to believe the medieval blood libels peddled today in the Middle East.
No, what I think today is that there are three kinds of anti-Zionists: Arabs and Muslims who find the idea of Jewish sovereignty unacceptable either for religious reasons or because it threatens their honor; ignorant or uninterested people who unquestionably accept the anti-Zionist story from others; and some thoughtful and intelligent individuals who are nevertheless conditioned, predisposed by some dark element in their character, to believe evil about Jews and their state. James Wall is one of these, as is the Jewish Max Blumenthal.
There is nothing that can be done about the first and third categories. But most of the world’s Christians do not hate Jews or Israel. In the Middle East they are becoming aware, in the most concrete way possible, of the worldwide struggle that is developing and their place in it.
Perhaps now is the time for Jews in the rest of the world to overcome their reticence — admittedly developed over the years as a result of the anti-Jewish attitudes and behavior of some Christians — and reach out to them. It’s not simple — there are still pockets of Christian Jew-hatred, even in places (like Eastern Europe) that are under siege by Islam.
But there’s no alternative. The Jewish people is a tiny minority in the world, in part due to centuries of hatred, pogroms, forced conversions and prejudice-driven assimilation. We will not survive without allies, and our natural allies are not and will never be found among the Muslims.