Mitri Raheb

Mitri Raheb Occupies the Bible

on October 11, 2016

Israel’s Jewish homeland “is an empire by proxy,” stated Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb during a September 19 presentation before about 30 in a Georgetown University Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS) conference room. Hosted by CCAS and the Saudi-funded Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU), the presentation showcased his ongoing distortion of the Bible revealed first to Jews for modern anti-Israel agendas.

ACMCU Professor John Voll introduced Raheb, a Palestinian Lutheran pastor from Bethlehem now presenting his new book Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible through Palestinian Eyes. Voll noted that his ancestral Sweden had awarded Raheb the Olof Palme Prize, “signifying your international stature as a major peacemaker.” “We have a peace worker here,” Voll stated.

Analysts of Raheb’s Israel-bashing would demur. A supporter of Palestinian Liberation Theology, he peddles theories discredited by DNA analysis and scholarly research that modern Jews have no ancestry in the Jews described in the Old and New Testaments. He posits that Palestinian Arabs like him have greater ancestry from Jews like King David than Israeli Jews like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, supposed descendants from European Jewish converts.

Raheb thus joins with other like-minded Palestinian advocates who fantasize of a Palestinian people who “have lived on the land of historic Palestine since time immemorial.” He concocts an ancient lineage for a population formed by numerous immigration flows (precisely increased by Zionism) into a territory named by the Romans “Palestine” after the Jews’ historic Philistine enemies as an insult to rebellious Jews.  Although today some Israeli Christians are reviving their Aramaic national identity, the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) Basic Law reflects the legacy of the Holy Land’s seventh-century Muslim Arab conquest. The Basic Law proclaims that “Islam is the official religion in Palestine,” the “principles of Islamic Shari’a shall be a principal source of legislation,” and the “Palestinian people are part of the Arab nation.”

Not surprisingly, Raheb was among the radical Palestinian drafters of the 2009 Kairos Document that called for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against an Israel compared to apartheid South Africa.  A simpatico South African audience questioner stated that many South Africans are “asking for a theology of BDS” after similar measures “brought the apartheid regime to its knees.” Yet as the Central Committee of American Rabbis noted in 2010, Kairos is a “factually, theologically and morally flawed document” containing “explicit supercessionism and inherent anti-Semitism.”

Raheb’s remarks made explicit his warped understanding of the “people of Palestine” who, among other things, replace the Jews as the population that calls upon God for a king in the Book of 1 Samuel. He stated that “Palestine was always on the periphery, never, never, ever in the center” in a “place where the magnetic fields of the empires were colliding” throughout Middle Eastern history. While this assessment applies to peoples like the Muslim-majority Arabs, who historically considered Palestine southern Syria and often neglected Jerusalem and its Al Aqsa mosque, for Jews, the only people to ever make Jerusalem their capital, Israel is central.

These imperial “patterns that keep repeating themselves” in the Bible and history left Raheb unmoved by the miraculously revived Jewish national homeland, whose Arab minority enjoys benefits unrivaled in the wider Arab world. “The eyes of the people of Palestine have been crying for centuries, for millennia,” he stated, such that in his book “occupation and Palestine become almost a synonym.” Quoting slain El Salvadoran bishop Oscar Romero, Raheb argued that the Bible could have only originated in Palestine, for “there are things that cannot be seen but through eyes that have cried.”

Raheb’s warped Palestinian hermeneutic gave strained interpretations to well-known Biblical passages.  He described how the “unimaginable for Isaiah was to see the lion lying side by side with the lamb,” a “lion that is a vegetarian,” whereby the “lion stands here for the empire and the lamb stands for Palestine.” In Jesus’ Beatitudes, “blessed are the meek, they will inherit the land,” not earth, as Raheb contradicted most translations, for the “land is not the earth, it is Palestine.”

Palestinian Islamic realities placed in doubt Raheb’s vision of Arabs and Jews inhabiting a single Palestinian state of Swiss-like cantons (consider Lebanon’s multicultural experiment). The “project called Israel has failed” as “Israel as it exists is not what the persecuted Jews had in mind” he stated and claimed that Israel cannot survive without foreign aid without any particular evidence. More realistic was his assessment that “also the project called Palestine has failed” amidst strife between Hamas and the PA’s main party, Fatah, leading him “to think beyond the nation-state.”

Raheb elaborated that “giving a state a religious status is very destructive.” “I cannot stand when Netanyahu talks about Israel as a Jewish state or when an Islamic political group talks about Islamic states,” he stated, as if the Jewish national home were equivalent to Islamic theocracy. He opposed the recent In Defense of Christians proposal for an autonomous province in Iraq’s Nineveh plain, even though Iraqi Christians recognize this as their only hope for long term survival.

Raheb’s belief that Palestinians and Jews have equivalent democratic credentials rests on his conflation of Jewish self-reflection and humanism revealed in the Bible (and modern Israel) with Palestinians. In contrast to Middle East traditions of revering political rulers such as pharaohs, “we never ever developed in Palestine this notion of worshipping our king,” he stated, as if Palestinian politics were freer than elsewhere in the region. “As Palestinians we are always making jokes of our leaders” because Palestinians are not “so afraid of our leaders we have to worship them,” a claim many observers of Hamas and the PA would find hard to believe.

A fraudulent interpreter of the Biblical past, Raheb is also a poor prophet for improving any Israeli-Palestinian future. His clumsy attempts to steal Israel’s spiritual and historical legacy for Palestinians disqualify him as a Christian peacemaker. Associations with Raheb only tarnish the reputations of Georgetown University and other institutions.

  1. Comment by Skipper on October 14, 2016 at 9:51 am

    When the predecessor of the United Nations handed out land in the Middle East for counties after World War II the Arabs got the lion’s share – Saudi Arabia, Jordan, etc. The Jews only got a small area. But there is always someone who doesn’t want to live in peace.

  2. Comment by Lancelot Camelot on October 15, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    Anti-Zionism is that form of anti-semitism that promotes contempt or dehumanization of the jews as a people and the Israelites as a nation. Anti-semitism against the Jews as a national group.

  3. Comment by Larry A Singleton on October 16, 2016 at 7:39 am

    Is it too much trouble to have a print function?

  4. Comment by Librarian50 on October 16, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    Prince Alwaleed gave $20 million dollars to Georgetown University,the second largest donation to Georgetown ever. Ever since the Jesuit university has been an academic center for the most radical anti-Israeli propaganda. 13 Georgetown professors signed a petition to boycott Israeli academic institutions. It would be impossible to “tarnish the reputation” of Georgetown. Jesuits sold themselves to the highest bidder.

  5. Comment by Mark on October 17, 2016 at 7:41 am

    So now they want to claim they are the Jews? Where were they during WW2? Maybe if 1/2 of them had lined up (instead of helping the Nazis) and died in gas chambers we’d embrace their fiction, but since they are, at heart, Islamic Nazis themselves? They can go F**K themselves.

  6. Comment by Richard S. Bell on October 20, 2016 at 12:34 am

    Here, in this comment, we see the fruits of Andrew Harrod’s misdescription of Raheb’s thinking. Alas, Mr Harrod.

  7. Comment by Richard S. Bell on October 20, 2016 at 12:30 am

    Read Andrew Harrod’s direct quotations of Raheb, not his descriptions of what Raheb says or believes. Better, read Raheb’s book. You will find in Raheb no antisemitism, no call for the dissolution of the state of Israel, only a well-founded denunciation of Israel’s violation of basic human rights and international law, especially in Occupied Territories. Raheb calls Israel an imperial presence and defends that description with facts and reason. None of the plausible gist of Raheb’s book is conveyed by Andrew Harrod’s descriptions of it here.
    I hold no brief for Raheb’s history of the land and its inhabitants, just as I hold no brief for the competing histories offered by Muslims and the competing histories offered by Jews. All are tendentious; all make some claims that are very dubious. But these histories are just make-weight for other arguments that Christians may rightly join.
    The other arguments are about moral right and wrong. Christians should engage with Raheb (and with Muslims and with Jews) around issues of morality. The other arguments are also about God’s will. Christians should engage in reasoning from God’s revelation of his will with reference to the social and political facts in the Holy Land.
    Let me get us started with a couple of general questions — the kind of questions that Raheb asks: (1) By what facts and standards of morality is the current occupation of Palestine by Israel right? (2) By what facts and revelation of God’s will in Scripture or elsewhere is the Christian called to support the current occupation of Palestine by Israel?

  8. Comment by greenpeaceRdale1844coop on November 24, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    Apparently author Tricia Miller disagrees with you, and supports Harrod’s accounts of Raheb’s racism.

    I’ve come to this debate from the outside as an International Relations scholar, and identified an answer to your question 1. The Arab Muslim invasion of Israel upon their independence created a war, and refugees who fled were deemed foreigners by the new sovereign state. The perpetuation of military funding of enemy combatants in those refugee communities by Saudi Arabia et al has meant essentially a continuation of ongoing wars, provoking Israel and its increasing extremism. Therefore, those refugees should be removed to permanent establishments away from the sovereign state of Israel. Comparisons can be made with India and Pakistan, and the US and Cuba.

    Upon reviewing question 2, I would say that my whole context analysis provides the justification.

  9. Comment by Richard S. Bell on November 25, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    I do not know Tricia Miller well enough to trust her opinion better than the one I formed by reading Raheb’s book. Have you read Raheb’s book? If not, why do you trust the opinions of people like Miller and Harrod instead of mine? If you have read Raheb’s book, what is your opinion about Raheb’s racism? This would interest me much more than being told that Tricia Miller agrees with Harrod.
    You may have identified an answer to my question 1, but I do not have it. By “refugees” are you referring to Arabs who had lived in places that became part of the new state of Israel? What is the new sovereign state that deemed them foreigners? Jordan? Do you think they were not foreigners? Why were those who wanted to return to their homes in what had become Israel not repatriated? I asked what moral justification there is for Israel’s current occupation of Palestine. Do you think you have stated a justification? Do you really think there is moral justification for moving the “refugees” farther away from Israel? What justification would that be? If such a mass deportation were practicable and were carried out, would it cause Israel to end its occupation of Palestine?
    You have not even touched on my question 2. You think otherwise, and so I strongly suspect that you do not even understand what I am referring to by the revelation of God’s will to a Christian.

  10. Comment by greenpeaceRdale1844coop on November 25, 2016 at 10:11 pm

    Well, I have seen enough anti-Israel ideologues, and had no reason to doubt the original article’s analysis, and considered T Miller’s as fair support. Since I live abroad, I don’t have easy access to his book, but I checked a youtube video of Raheb, and just confirmed his anti-Israel ideology.

    I gave you my assessment of the full context of the Palestine situation, and calling Israel and “occupying imperial power” is a rankly false label, based on false associations with such past powers as the Ottomans and misinterpreting their power and even, admittedly in part, the abuses they go to albeit in what I assert is a war context. The failure to acknowledge the Arab Muslim role in attacking and provoking Israel, and denying the fait accompli, the establishment of Israel in the first place, is typical of implicitly Arab Muslim-centric positions and its anti-semitism. In this case, apparently, warped by a Palestinian through a Christian lens.

    The refugees who fled what is now Israel and who are the refugees claiming “Right of Return”, and it is strange that you complicate a clear referent like that. Arabs who did not flee live in Israel and are not at issue in this context. What is the new sovereign state, Jordan? Are you kidding? If you don’t consider Israel a sovereign state, then you should make that explicit, since that identifies you as an ideologue. Israel is a sovereign state, and has militarily defended that status numerous times, and the refugees from the initial war are foreigners. Why were they not repatriated? Because they fled in apparent sympathy with the invading Arab Muslim armies of 5 countries including Saudi Arabia and Egypt. What moral justification for their “occupation” is there? Because of the series of wars that were openly conducted against the sovereign state of Israel by Arab Muslim nations, and the refusal of the refugees to stop harboring enemy combatants of Israel. Those Muslim combatants have been funded by Saudi Arabia at least, and perpetuate their own human rights abuses, meaning the war against Israel has simply continued.

    What is the justification of moving the refugees away? The context of the Israeli victory over Arab Muslim invaders, and the ongoing attacks from refugee communities. That only creates an ongoing situation of war. As in India and Pakistan, the Muslims dissatisfied with the mix of India left for Pakistan. The Palestinian refugees who left upon the Arab Muslim invasions now need to be placed safely within the territories of the countries that really have lost, but instead continue to fund attacks on Israel. Your question of moving Israelis is based on the false premise that the original Arab Muslim invaders did not lose the war to Israel. They did lose, and Israel won then, has won since then, and continues to use its military force to respond to the continuing attacks from refugee positions funded by Saudi Arabia and others. The “deportation” of Arabs would in fact be the completion of the refugee process after the Arab Muslim invaders lost their war of aggression against Israel. In fact, what you and others refer to as the “occupation” is the military position held by Israel in the ongoing war following the original Arab aggression.

    You refer to “God’s will in Scripture” about supporting the current occupation of Palestine by Israel. I have returned to Christianity with a very evidence based perspective. I don’t speak for others. My reasoning as I have given it involves making explicit the original Arab Muslim aggression, the refugees apparent sympathy with that aggression, Israel’s military victory and victories after that, then their sovereign right to designate those refugees as having joined the invading enemy, etc. The continuing violence by Palestinians funded by Saudi Arabia confirms that role. That is the full context, the fully explicit truth, that corrects the false assertions that other sources can dictate the policies of a sovereign nation in a situation of war, Israel. Does the international community tell the Pakistani Muslims who left India to go back to India? No.

    Modern culture has developed scientific thought based on full evaluations of evidence, and that much is fulfillment of the Scriptural acknowledgement that God is Spirit and Truth. Moreover, God is Love, and the worst suffering being born by the refugees from their guerrillas attacking Israel and Israel retaliating with overwhelming force at least will be relieved by following through on their rightful placement in one of the invader nations that caused and lost the original war. You better read up on your history and international relations. I certainly did. But with those anti-Zionist extremist ideologues out there, your “Christian” criteria will be put to the test.

  11. Comment by Richard S. Bell on November 26, 2016 at 12:33 am

    Oh, boy! You are a Zionist extremist and it amazes me how many of you extreme Zionists profess to be Christians but accept, if not advocate, such horrific treatment of refugees from Israel — today mostly children and grandchildren of refugees from Israel — as their deportation from the occupied West Bank. You, personally, are among the extreme of the extremists, as you are actually advocating that.
    I do not doubt that Israel is a sovereign state. I only doubted what sovereign state you think deemed the refugees to be foreigners. You say Israel. Well, I suspected Jordan or some other country to which they had fled. I would assume Israel deemed them foreigners. That is so like Israel, to disown innocent people who once lived in its boundaries but fled for their lives — from Zionist terror.
    You write, “My reasoning as I have given it involves making explicit the original Arab Muslim aggression, the refugees apparent sympathy with that aggression, Israel’s military victory and victories after that, then
    their sovereign right to designate those refugees as having joined the
    invading enemy, etc. The continuing violence by Palestinians funded by
    Saudi Arabia confirms that role. That is the full context, the fully
    explicit truth, that corrects the false assertions that other sources
    can dictate the policies of a sovereign nation in a situation of war,
    Israel. Does the international community tell the Pakistani Muslims who left India to go back to India? No.” Your statement implies that you think every descendant of a refugee from Israel is perpetrating Saudi-funded violence. I doubt that you actually think that, but you imply it simply because it serves the propaganda aims of extreme Zionists extremists. The same may be said for your assertion that Israel has “sovereign right to designate those refugees as having joined the invading enemy, etc.” — an assertion that justifies Israel’s taking all those refugees as prisoners of war, or as combatants out of uniform who may be shot. Treating the partition of Palestine as strictly equivalent to the partition of India is a new one on me; maybe extreme Zionist extremists are lately becoming unhinged or are being driven to ever more bizarre arguments for their ideology.
    You imply that Israel is entitled to occupy the West Bank and deport the Arabs because Israel won the West Bank as a prize of war. Just say it. The Israeli extremists say it.
    You advise me to “read up on your history and international relations” and claim that you certainly did. Assuming that you want the truth about the subjects Raheb wrote on, I advise you to read a lot more history. As for international relations, just read about it; do not make recommendations until you have a well-formed morality.

  12. Comment by greenpeaceRdale1844coop on November 26, 2016 at 6:44 am

    My, you are a proud, specious, and smug one. Your anti-semitic arrogance is your own problem. Whatever I am, I certainly am not anti-Semitic, am not advocating Israeli excesses, and clearly see the consequences of the origins and continuity of Arab Muslim military aggression against Israel.. Surely it is absurd and tragic in being funny that you didn’t mention Saudi funded Palestinian violence against Israel at all.

    In fact, unlike the brainless, poorly informed moralizing of a distorted “party line” that you parrot, I did learn about international relations issues, and conflicts in other places like Columbia and India before I threw my analysis in. I also waited years in my pursuit of spiritual truth before I became interested in calling myself a “Christian.”
    Your kind of simplistic notions, as if numbly accepting the bizarre perception of Israeli power merely justifies what, that they are hateful racists by nature? You justify your simplistic evaluations in which you merely whisk away the consequences of history? On behalf of some new generations who deserve your “divine benevolence” over some country you hardly understand as SOVEREIGN in a region where Saudi Arabia’s democrats are dissidents in danger of being beheaded publicly? Egypt collapsed. Syria has collapsed. Lebanon, etc. Arab Muslim culture. Indeed the options for Palestinian Muslim quality of life are not bright, although there is the only country you can stomach to mention, Jordan.
    The extent of the substance in your arrogant reply is to lump me with label after label dismissively along with your breezy denials of consequences and sovereign rights.
    Your idiotic mentality and alignment with those in denial, in historical and ethnic qualities is your responsibility, and certainly does nothing to change other basic facts, that the vicious Arab Muslim leadership that has led and fed the anti-Semitic war and racism, has demonstrated how little they care for the love Jesus taught. Unfortunately, you and Raheb demonstrate how little the love Jesus taught has been understood for its greatest miracles, university scientific education to dispel illusions and civil society to dispel the illusions of hate. In fact, you didn’t mention one word about Saudi Arab etc funding of Palestinian violence against Israel. Enjoy your in fact heartless endless Middle East conflict, your Smugness. Hypocritical, specious moralists like you certainly enjoy the self-fulfilling self-righteous prophecies you presume you fight against in all your deluded confusion.

  13. Comment by Richard S. Bell on November 27, 2016 at 8:51 pm

    Of course you think continued Jewish settlement in the West Bank is acceptable and that settlement “will make annexation fully appropriate in its context.” Your extreme Zionist extremism includes all its aims and methods.
    Do you have a vision of an Israel that had annexed the West Bank but had not deported the Arabs? Do you have a vision of that Israel, say, 20 years after annexation, with West Bank Arabs and their descendants now living within its borders? Do you see the West Bank Arabs as full citizens of the Israel in which they have come to live? That is, do you see this brave new Israel as eventually an Arab-majority state? Or do you see this brave new Israel as an apartheid state? Or do you deny my hypothetical and insist that this brave new Israel will forcibly deport the West Bank Arabs?
    How do you see the post-annexation Israel? (Having advocated things that are heinously immoral, you may well feel free to depict a future Israel that is wildly unrealistic.)

  14. Comment by greenpeaceRdale1844coop on November 28, 2016 at 9:39 am

    Your comments show little dedication to a full, honest, and well-informed evaluation of the situation.

    Israel has been attacked almost continuously by the racist, genocidal Arab Muslims you leave unmentioned, totally unmentioned I see. Israel seized the West Bank, etc in its military responses in those wars. Having returned the Gaza Strip to Egypt upon the Sadat-Begin Peace Treaty, they certainly continued their good faith in negotiating the PA. And then what? Instead of using Saudi Arab and whoever’s funding to make their territory bloom and grow, many Palestinian Arab Muslim’s trained for war. Presumably Raheb did not go that far. But his neighbor’s did.

    Then came the second Intifada. The PA is split between factions. It is Israeli territory, as is the Golan Heights. War is as war does, and Israel has given fair chances, unbelievably so. The Arab Muslims, and including Palestinian Christians like Raheb, have blown the extraordinary generosity of Israel.

    What does the future look like? Israel is a highly functioning state. Its problems, including discrimination by European descended Jews against Middle Eastern Jews will continue to be addressed and dealt with, as will any issues with Arab Muslims. However, they will be dealt with as in any functioning democracy. Since this bears repeating, most of the Arab Muslim Middle East is not functioning very well or democratically, Saudi Arabia’s brutal totalitarian monarchy least well of all. Better leave your preferred websites a little and get to the library to get a headful for some reality therapy. That is the highest form of compassion, not “Might, or the lack thereof, makes right.”

  15. Comment by Richard S. Bell on November 28, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    What does it signify that you did not answer any of my questions about what Israel would be after its annexation of the West Bank? (I am pretty sure that I know what it signifies. I only want you to think about it.)

  16. Comment by greenpeaceRdale1844coop on November 28, 2016 at 9:14 pm

    It signifies that you don’t pay attention to details. Actually, I laid out some substantive contextual information to balance your empty, ill-informed, and pompous rhetoric. Moreover, my response to your final question was clearly made, and addresses your other questions. Your commitment to avoid substantive information seems related to your lack of perceptiveness.

    However, again, your hollow attempts to moralize rhetorically did inspire me to research Arabs in Israel. I recall hearing that they have the best conditions in the Middle East. Speaking of which, once again, no mention from you about the character, conditioins, and role of Arab Muslims in Saudi Arabia etc. You have a willful perceptual deficit in this issue, and if I were from the Middle East, I would shame you for pretending to care about those issues. You ignore essential information.

    It turns out that there were Arab politicians elected since the beginning, including Seif el-Din el-Soubi. While martial law was imposed until 1966, at that point it was lifted and Arabs were granted full citizenship rights.

    However, Arab Muslim cultural identity does not meld with Israeli nationhood, and becomes contaminated by the anti-Israeli racism fomented by Arab Muslims. As such, Israeli Arabs being recruited to terrorism has been a problem. From 2001 to 2004 some 150 Israeli Arabs in E Jerusalem were arrested in terrorist attacks on civilians.

    Another alternative situation exists in the Golan Heights, where many Arabs have refused Israeli citizenship. Nevertheless, they have been granted permanent residency status with voting rights.

    There are many of the answers. The question is raised, why do you presume to understand their situation? Arab Muslims live in a non-democratic, theocratic context, and Israel’s Jews have established their own successful democratic state. Your positions really merit a shaming response. Do you really think you understand the Israeli-Arab Muslim conflict adequately? It’s clear you don’t, though you do like to act like a moralizer..

  17. Comment by Richard S. Bell on December 1, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    Obviously, I touched a nerve. Well, in my experience, that happens often when extreme Zionist extremists are asked to describe with any specificity the political morality of the state of Israel that has actually annexed the West Bank. Excruciatingly embarrassed by their inability to portray realistically an Israel that would be anything but odious to the civilized world, these extremists launch personal attacks on the questioners. These extremists are your people; that has been confirmed again and again in this dialogue.

  18. Comment by greenpeaceRdale1844coop on December 1, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    Again, your tragic superficiality and implicit scapegoating is all you smugly wave around. No clarity except for your hollow party line. Being nominally Christian, that fits well with mainstream hypocrisy.

    Israel and the Palestinian-Saudi-et al Muslims should stop their warring, especially the Muslims with their historical burden.

    You can stick this video about Saudi Arabia’s totalitarian monarchy where the sun don’t shine, you know, where you use your brains for sitting on. Anyone else can watch it.

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