As any reader of this piece will likely know, the ninth Commandment declares unequivocally that we “shall not give false testimony against [our] neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16). Yet after reviewing the narrative that for some purports to define the appropriate Christian reaction to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, I have come to a simple conclusion: The fundamental tactic of the effort to separate Christians from Israel is to directly violate God’s ninth Commandment. In short, the pro-Palestinian Christian narrative, as defined by its leaders, is a lie.
In early December I came across a video of Dr. Mitri Raheb, pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem, summing up the pro-Palestinian Christian narrative. While Raheb’s duplicity is disturbing, his rather succinct commentary offers an opportunity to debunk the lies that he and his colleagues advance:
Dr. Mitri Raheb: “Christianity did not start in Canterbury. Christianity started in Palestine.”
TRUTH: Christianity started in Israel and Judah.
In 135 AD, in an effort to blot out the memory of the Jewish people, the Roman Emperor Hadrian renamed the Kingdom of Israel/Judah, “Palaestinia,” (anglicized, “Palestine”) – purposely chosen after one of Israel’s fiercest enemies, the Philistines.
To claim Christianity started in a place called Palestine is a blatant attempt to rewrite the Bible and erase every memory of the Jewish people.
Matthew 2:19-22 (TLB)
When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and told him, “Get up and take the baby and his mother back to Israel, for those who were trying to kill the child are dead.”
So he returned immediately to Israel with Jesus and his mother. But on the way he was frightened to learn that the new king was Herod’s son, Archelaus. Then, in another dream, he was warned not to go to Judea, so they went to Galilee instead.
Mark 12:28-30 (TLB)
One of the teachers of religion who was standing there listening to the discussion realized that Jesus had answered well. So he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
Jesus replied, “The one that says, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only God. And you must love him with all your heart and soul and mind and strength.’
And it is one of King David’s descendants, Jesus, who is God’s promised Savior of Israel!
During Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, Transjordan (Jordan) invaded Judea and Samaria, expelled the Jews, and following the Emperor Hadrian’s attempt to erase Jewish history renamed it the West Bank. Transjordan also invaded East Jerusalem, destroyed the entire Jewish quarter (including 58 synagogues), and displaced thousands of Jews living in the city.
Transjordan continued to occupy East Jerusalem until the 6-Day War in 1967 when Israel recaptured it, reunifying Jerusalem once again as the undivided, eternal capital of Israel.
Dr. Mitri Raheb: “In fact, most probably we are the descendant (sic) of the first Christian community that believed in Jesus as their Messiah.”
The first Gentile to be brought into the Christian community was a Roman centurion in Caesarea named Cornelius – and God took the entire 10th and 11th chapters of Acts to explain the unprecedented phenomenon of this Gentile’s inclusion in the church.
Acts 11:11-13 (TLB)
Soon the news reached the apostles and other brothers in Judea that Gentiles also were being converted. But when Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers argued with him. “You fellowshipped with Gentiles and even ate with them,” they accused.
In the times Jesus lived, non-Jews were considered unclean – thus the outrage from the Jewish believers regarding Gentiles being allowed into the community of Jesus’s followers.
Mark 7:25-28 (TLB)
Right away a woman came to him whose little girl was possessed by a demon. She had heard about Jesus and now she came and fell at his feet, and pled with him to release her child from the demon’s control. (But she was Syrophoenician—a “despised Gentile”!)
Jesus told her, “First I should help my own family—the Jews. It isn’t right to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
The most troubling part of the heretical substitution of Gentile lineage into foundational roles within the Jewish root of Christianity is that the Christian Palestinian leaders bring this message to so many churches – without ever being confronted by the leaders of these congregations.
It is astounding to see another one of the leading voices within the Christian Palestinian movement, Father Elias Chacour, double down on the Arab/Palestinian “founders” of the Christian faith with the following statement:
We are convinced – we might be wrong but I don’t think so. We are convinced that we are the remnant of the first Christians! You remember in the Acts of the Apostles those were in the upper room and received the Spirit of God? How many they (sic) were? Who knows? 120 men from Galilee with Mary the mother of Jesus.
They were the first Christians. These were my forefathers – my own sisters – some of them were Jews – some were Romans – some were Greeks – some were Arabs, we read that in the Acts of the Apostles. And these first Christians, my forefathers, went all over the world, avoiding to do theology or make philosophy. That’s what we hate we Palestinian Christians. We are story tellers . . .
Yes Father Chacour, you are indeed storytellers.
The factual Biblical story from the Acts of the Apostles Father Chacour references in his fictional narrative of, “the first Christians,” is noted below. And all the participants are Jews.
The apostles gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.
They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) . . .”
Acts 2:2-5 (NIV)
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.
Christians read a Jewish book, written by Jews. Every Patriarch is a Jew. Every Prophet is a Jew. Every Apostle is a Jew. The first family of Christianity, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, are Jews. John the Baptist is not a Baptist (or a Palestinian), he is a Jew.
Thus the Jewish Apostle John, proclaims:
John 4:22 (NASB)
. . . salvation is from the Jews.
And it is the Jewish Apostle Paul, who warns the Gentile Christian:
Do not be arrogant – do not be proud – do not be wise in your own eyes. You do not support the root, the root supports you.
The arrogance with which these Palestinian Christian leaders bring such fallacious claims against the nation of Israel and the Christian faith, reveals their near hopeless condition:
Proverbs 26:12 (NKJV)
Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Dr. Mitri Raheb: “On the other side, since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, there haven’t (sic) been one single Christian minister in any Israeli government. Think of that in terms of the image and the perception of people, about Palestine.”
TRUTH: Lying to sway an audience, as Raheb does in this statement, portrays more about the dubious agenda and lack of integrity in the ‘Christian’ Palestinian leadership then it does about the Jewish nation of Israel. The truth about this subject was well documented in a 2012 Wall Street Journal op-ed authored by world-renown historian and the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren:
Christians are prominent in all aspects of Israeli life, serving in the Knesset, the Foreign Ministry and on the Supreme Court. They are exempt from [mandatory] military service, but thousands have volunteered and been sworn in on special New Testaments printed in Hebrew. Israeli Arab Christians are on average more affluent than Israeli Jews and better-educated, even scoring higher on their SATs.
Below is a highly abridged list of Israel’s Christian leaders, but even this brief list shows how dishonest Raheb’s comments are:
- Hana Sweid: Arab-Israeli Christian Knesset member of Hadash, and an active leader in Israeli politics since the mid 1990’s.
- Basel Ghattas: Arab-Israeli Christian Knesset member.
- Salim Joubran: Arab-Israeli Christian Supreme Court Judge
- Father Garbriel Naddaf: Arab-Israeli leader of the Christian Recruitment Forum
- Shadi Halul (IDF res.): Armenian-Israeli Christian, leader of the IDF Officers Forum
Dr. Mitri Raheb: “Unfortunately, Palestine has been occupied for most of the time. Remember, the first people to occupy Palestine were the Assyrians -722, then we had the Babylonians – 587, then the Persian came, 538, all of this is BC – OK? Then the Greeks, then the Romans, then the Byzantines, then the Arabs, then the Crusaders, then a few others, then the Ottomans, then the British . . . and then Israel.”
TRUTH: This ridiculous historical summary reveals Raheb’s determination to use duplicity to obliterate the legitimate and historical Jewish bond to the land of Israel.
Bible believing Christians know that God first promised the land of Israel to Abraham around 2,000 – 1500BC and history records his descendants have maintained ties to the Promised Land for more than 3,700 years.
Genesis 13: 14,15 (NASAB)
The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever.”
As scripture records, the Children of Israel took possession of the Promised Land during the days of Joshua.
So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord had spoken to Moses, and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. Thus the land had rest from war.
God’s promise of the land to Abraham and his descendants is confirmed in the New Testament by Stephen, the church’s first appointed “deacon,” as he addressed the High Priest and crowd of Jewish leaders:
And Peter said . . . From there, after his father died, God had him move to this country in which you are now living. But He gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot of ground, and yet, even when he had no child, He promised that He would give it to him as a possession, and to his descendants after him.
Dr. Mitri Raheb: “Unfortunately, many people abroad, they connect Israel with the Biblical Israel, the state of Israel today with the Biblical Israel instead of connecting Israel actually with all of these occupations that occupied our land. Maybe you never put this together this way?”
TRUTH: Fortunately, many Christians do in fact connect the miraculous rebirth of the state of Israel with the Biblical Israel, and with the God of the Bible. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God of Covenant; a promise making God and a promise keeping God – and the Bible contains more than 170 references concerning the promised inheritance of the land of Israel to the Children of Israel (the Jewish people).
And it is worth noting that Christians who believe these promises were fulfilled during the Jewish people’s return to Israel from the Babylonian exile are incorrect. The Bible is replete with verses that prophesy a restoring of the Jews to their land upon which they will “never again be rooted out from their land!”
Amos 9:14-15 (NASB)
“Also I will restore the captivity of My people Israel,
And they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them;
They will also plant vineyards and drink their wine,
And make gardens and eat their fruit.
“I will also plant them on their land,
And they will never again be rooted out from their land
Which I have given them,” Says the Lord your God.
Dr. Mitri Raheb: “The Gaza war this year is our 9/11 experience.”
TRUTH: All wars are hellish, as was the recent Gaza war – but just as the blood of every innocent German citizen who died during WWII is upon the head of Hitler, the blood of every innocent Palestinian who perished in Gaza is upon the head of Hamas. The 2005 pullout of over 8,500 Jewish citizens from 21 cities in Gaza was. according to then Israeli Ambassador to the United States Daniel Ayalon, a “Test Case for Peace.” But the Palestinians did not build schools, hospitals and a peaceful society, rather, they used the Israeli pullout to launch a nine-year torrent of rocket attacks – and it was those attacks that necessitated Israel’s Operation Protective Edge.
Raheb embraces an upside-down worldview that condemns a pluralistic democratic nation for protecting its citizens, and sympathizes with the Islamic terrorist theocracy seeking to destroy it’s free neighbors.
The world now knows of Hamas’s cruel use of children to dig terror tunnels and the group’s barbaric use of children as human shields for Palestinian terrorist activity. The world has seen the pictures of men and women lined up in the middle of Gaza’s city squares and executed for being accused of collaborating with the Jews.
For those concerned with the impact of Hamas’s rule on our brothers and sisters in Christ, Oren sums up the tragic reality quite succinctly:
Since the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007, half the Christian community has fled. Christmas decorations and public displays of crucifixes are forbidden. In a December 2010 broadcast, Hamas officials exhorted Muslims to slaughter their Christian neighbors. Rami Ayad, owner of Gaza’s only Christian bookstore, was murdered, his store reduced to ash.
This is the same Hamas with which the Palestinian Authority of the West Bank recently signed a unity pact. Little wonder, then, that the West Bank is also hemorrhaging Christians. Once 15% of the population, they now make up less than 2%.
Though I lament my Christian brothers use of such blatant dishonesty in their historic and Biblical teachings, I appreciate the opportunity to openly address them. Truth and light are God’s best antiseptic for deception; and with repentance on their part, cleansing and hope for real peace can begin.
Pastor Victor Styrsky is the Eastern Regional Coordinator for Christians United for Israel and author of, Honest to God – The 10 Questions Jews Ask Christian Zionists.