Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Obama and Israel: The Theological Implications of History and Geography

In recent days, the Obama administration has criticized Israel repeatedly and publicly in a way never seen before by an American administration - ever. Even many Democrats and liberal Jewish groups have been shocked. Does Israel have a right to exist as a Jewish state at all? Are concessions to be a one-way street or a two-way street? Will Hamas and its one-state solution (with an Arab majority), which is now favored in many European leftist circles, eventually become US government policy? Why are the Israelis so resistant to the Obama administration and why are the problems in the holy land so intractable?

Here is an article entitled "The Subtext of the Obama-Israel Dispute" from American Thinker by Amy Goldstein, which explains Jewish sensitivities to the attempt to limit their natural growth in their own holy city and the tone deafness of the Obama administration to these very understandable sensitivities.
"President Obama has consistently stated that the Jewish state should not expand the so-called settlements beyond the Green Line even for natural growth. Today is the second day of the Jewish month of Nissan -- in two weeks, the Jewish people will celebrate the holiday of Passover, commemorating the Exodus from Egypt, when God liberated the Israelites from slavery. Pharaoh had tried to end "natural growth" of the Children of Israel by killing all of the Jewish newborn boys, but Moses escaped to become God's vehicle for salvation. Two weeks ago, Jews celebrated Purim, the holiday that commemorates the Jewish people's salvation from Haman's attempts to annihilate them throughout the Persian Empire (today's Iran), by retelling the story of Queen Esther.

Throughout history, non-Jewish leaders have locked Jewish communities into ghettos in an attempt to limit natural growth through hardship and disease. Just seventy-five years ago, Hitler rounded up Jews, ghettoized them, and finally murdered six million of them in Europe in an attempt to destroy the entire people. Just a few days after the eight-day Passover holiday, the Jewish people will remember the Holocaust on Yom Ha-Shoah, a day when all Israeli citizens stand silent in memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. Throughout the world, Jewish communities gather to remember, recite the names of those murdered, and light candles in memory of those whose names we still do not know.

Jews are particularly sensitive to attempts to limit their "natural growth" and the area in which they can live. President Obama continues to hit that nerve -- whether it is intentional or not."
There can be no doubt that the Muslim threat to Israel is just as much a threat to Christianity. Theologians like Barth and Bonhoffer recognized in the Nazi attack on Israel an indirect attack on Jesus Christ and His Church, which is why they regarded the German Christian movement as utter heresy to be opposed and stamped out. Today the threat is not National Socialism, but militant Islam, just as it was in the 8th and 16th centuries. Consider these two paragraphs:
"Moreover, there is the issue of Jerusalem. For over 3,000 years, Jerusalem has been both the political and spiritual capital of the Jewish people. There has never been another. Despite their understanding this, the Palestinians have engaged in a concerted effort to undermine the world's recognition of the Jewish tie to Jerusalem, calling it a lie and stating that the Jewish Temples actually were in Yemen. Just to be clear, this insidious rhetoric seeks to undermine the basis of not only Judaism, but also Christianity. If there was no Jewish Temple in Jerusalem (even though there is ample archeological evidence), then where did Jesus walk? Where did he overturn the moneylenders' tables? Where did he confront the Sadduces and Pharisees? Where was the Last Supper? Christians will soon celebrate Easter -- the holiest day of the year -- but if there was no Temple in Jerusalem, then where did the Holy Week's events take place?

By trying to limit Jewish residency in Jerusalem, President Obama plays into this de-Judification of Jerusalem and poses a threat to both Judaism and Christianity."
We are dealing with people who actually claim that the Jews have no historic connection to and no valid legal claim on Jerusalem, people whose own claim to "own" Jerusalem and the Temple Mount in particular is based on violent conquest alone. The Muslim world's attempt to drive Israel out of the Holy Land and deface the temple mount with its own idolatrous monument is a direct attack on the very idea of Israel. This is not merely about land and buildings, but about the existence of the people of Israel.

It is an attempt to erase the physical evidence of salvation history from the earth and to ghettoize Judaism and Christianity into a gnostic spirituality that never quite touches down in history. The Christian Left does not mind this because it fits with its gnostic sensibilities anyway. But orthodox Christianity is not compatible with gnosticism and it must regard an attack on the Jews as an attack on itself. If we have not learned this from the Holocaust, we will never learn it.

Sometimes disputes in a fallen world really are intractable and cannot be negotiated away by those who sit lightly to religious conviction and prize peace and security in this world above all else. In other words, progressive liberalism is making things worse in the Middle East than a strong stand rooted in economic and military strength would do. It took a lot of doing, but I think Obama is actually managing to make me miss George W. Bush.

Read the rest here.

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