Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

5 Reasons We So Blindly Support Israel in Spite of the Truth or Biblical Ethics

 

Over the course of time I’ve noticed a troubling trend: it’s *almost* impossible to have a reasonable discussion with fellow Christians who believe we are called to give unwavering support the modern secular nation state of Israel.

This of course, has led me to try to figure out why this is the case. Why do so many Christians reject basic facts about Israel? Why do so many of us have an aversion to believing truth on this issue?

As your list-maker-in-chief, I have a few ideas as to why this seems to occur. So, here are my 5 reasons so many of us irrationally support Israel– in spite of truth or biblical ethics:

1. Bad theology regarding Israel has led us to become victims of our own confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is simply the logical fallacy where we only accept information that confirms what we believed at the onset. Essentially, confirmation bias is an unwillingness to consider what’s true. I’ve rarely seen such a strong unwillingness to learn as I do when talking to people about the nation of Israel.

For those of us who grew up in pro-Zionist versions of Christianity, we begin with a strong bend toward confirmation bias. We’re taught a message of, “Israel is God’s chosen nation, and the whole world is trying to wipe them out,” and then flavor that up a bit with a threat that God will curse anyone who doesn’t stand with them. As a result, we have a strong tendency to consume, accept, or interpret information, only in ways that further a narrative where Israel is the good guy.

Unfortunately, the world isn’t so neat and clean as to fit within these narratives– and using them causes us to overlook the reality that the nation of Israel is engaged in some horrible, unjust, and oppressive behaviors. In fact, some of those evil behaviors are even in defiance of international law– and yet we continually find ways to irrationally justify it.

2. We don’t listen to Palestinian voices– not even our Christian brothers and sisters in Palestine.

I’ll be honest– I’ve never met a radically pro-Israel individual who has ever spent much time listening to the voices of average Palestinians. And, why would one need to? To achieve our confirmation bias we have no need to listen to the other side. In fact, many are unaware that there are Christian Palestinians– let alone taken the time to actually listen to them talk about their own lives and their experiences living in occupied Palestine.

If one did, the stories they’d hear would challenge the Americanized version of the narrative we grew up with. Stories of Israeli soldiers demolishing their crops at harvest season, stories of being denied access to basic water while Israelis across the street have enough to water their lawns, stories of being spat upon because they’re Christians, churches being set ablaze by Israelis, or their children being tear gassed on the way to school or terrorized in the night by Israeli soldiers. These are the stories you’ll hear from Palestinian Christians.

Why do so many American Christians dismiss these realities as bogus “propaganda”? It’s because they’ve never taken the time to listen to the Christian voices from Palestine. (But if you’d like to listen to a Christian voice from Palestine, I have an hour long interview you can listen to, here.)

3. Criticism of Israel is criticism of America.

In addition to overt reasons we blindly stand with Israel, I think there are subconscious reasons as well.  Mainly, I believe that it’s impossible to condemn the behavior of Israel without condemning the behavior of America.

Think about it: an entire people group show up and take a land that already has people living there? The indigenous people are then displaced from their lands and homes, their resources are taken from them, and then are terrorized by a foreign army?

Sound remotely familiar? The story of Israel is the story of America. Perhaps that’s why so many love it, while so many find it inherently unjust. One cannot condemn the behavior of Israel without condemning our own– and that, I fear, is too often an unpardonable sin in America.

4. We’re afraid that critiquing the actions of a nation state makes us guilty of being “anti-semitic.”

There’s good reason to fear this one– Christian Zionists will be quick to paint you out as being anti-semitic for expressing even the slightest critique of Israel. But let me be clear: condemning the actions of a nation or culture is not anti-semitic.

Condemning illegal Israeli settlements is no more anti-Jew than criticizing American drone warfare is anti-Christian. This is about the behavior of a government and culture, not about ethnicity or religion.

If it is, the entire Old Testament was written by a bunch of anti-semites. You know all those prophets? Yeah– one of their main jobs was to rebuke Israel for evil and oppressive behavior. In fact, it’s one of the reasons so many of them (including Jesus) ended up dead.

Israel has a long history of twists and turns, sometimes behaving in alignment with God’s ways, and sometimes actively kicking against them. During seasons of the latter, God would raise up prophets to call them to repent– and I believe God is doing the same thing today. Thus, calling on Israel to repent of evil is not anti-semitic– it’s actually the epitome of “biblical.”

5. Standing in solidarity with Muslims would be a big no-no in American Christian culture.

(At this time your honor, I would direct the court to Exhibit A: Wheaton College)

While there are Christian Palestinians, it’s certainly true that the bulk of Palestinians happen to be Muslims– and that I believe creates a major problem for many American Christians. I mean, after all, they are quite often seen as somehow being the “enemy.”

Standing up for these Muslims? Acknowledging they are being oppressed and mistreated? And worse, acknowledging they are being oppressed and mistreated by the country that is supposedly God’s favorite?

Yeah, that’s just too much for most people to deal with. Far easier to stick with the good-guy-bad-guy cowboy narrative, where Muslims are always wearing black hats, than to contend with what may actually be true.

The issue of Israel and Palestine is no small issue– in many respects, the peace of an entire region could depend on whether or not Western influence takes a stand for justice and righteousness.

However, I see little hope of that happening until we become willing to recognize that we have blindly given one side our total loyalty– even in spite of facts, or biblical ethics.

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Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is a cultural anthropologist, public theologian, writer, speaker, global traveler, and tattoo collector. He is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell with graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies, and went on to receive his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus. In addition to his blog, Formerly Fundie, his work has been regularly featured by a wide array of media outlets such as TIME magazine and CNN, among others.

BLC

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is a cultural anthropologist, public theologian, writer, speaker, global traveler, and tattoo collector. He is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell with graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies, and went on to receive his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus. In addition to his blog, Formerly Fundie, his work has been regularly featured by a wide array of media outlets such as TIME magazine and CNN, among others.

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  • JD says:

    Even if one believes the current nation state of Israel is the same Israel of the OT covenant, it doesn’t change how the church is supposed to treat the situation. We aren’t in the business of picking sides in a violent and murderous war. We are to be a refuge for the broken. We are to be peacemakers. We are to come to the middle and, through self-sacrificial Christ-like love, show the warring sides a different way. We are to show them a way centered on love and forgiveness. We are to show them the Jesus Way. This means condemning violence on both sides and seeking to serve and heal the broken, regardless of which side of the fight they are on.

    We condemn the brutal oppression and subjugation of the Palestinian people. We condemn the indiscriminate killing and attacks committed against the Israeli people. We embrace and model the Jesus Way…the way of nonviolence, forgiveness and love.

    • Matthew says:

      I basically agree JD. Everytime — and I mean EVERYTIME — this topic comes up it leads to major league polarization, arguing, and fighting on both sides. It´s like we are all treating each other the very same way the Israelis and the Palestinians treat each other most of the time.

      It´s absolute madness really.

  • kirby1 says:

    The Disquieting Treatment of Christians by the Palestinians

    In the voluminous commentaries on the Middle East today very little attention has been given to the sad fate of Christians in the Arab and Muslim countries. Even less attention has been paid to the contrast between the treatment of Christians in Israel and their treatment in Arab countries. In Israel Christians have religious freedom and their numbers have increased. In Arab countries the religious freedom of Christians is restricted and their number has been reduced because of harassment, fear, and persecution. It is well to remember the words of Martin Luther King: “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”

    Christians have been a presence in the Middle East for two millennia. Hundreds of churches and monasteries were built after Constantine legalized Christianity in 313. Yet after the Islamic conquest in 638 Christians have been subjected to Arab and Muslim rule for centuries. Their status in the Ottoman Empire was that of dhimmis, non-Muslims who were protected but who were second-class citizens. In this millet system based on religious affiliation, Christians were tolerated but they were also in a state of perpetual humiliation, even of subjugation.

    http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/2838/palestinians-christians

  • kirby1 says:

    Benjamin should at least be honest with his readership and more accurate title his blog:

    5 Reasons I So Blindly Undermined Israel in Spite of the Truth or Biblical Ethics

  • ER says:

    Thank you for this blog!! Currently I’m living in Israel and have seen first hand the horrible treatment that Palestinians receive from Israelis. I’m convinced that if followers of Jesus and churches in the US were aware of what is done, they would be appalled and would withdraw support! “Blessed are the peacemakers….” I think it is time for Americans to be a peacemaker, a REAL peacemaker between Palestinians and Israelis.

  • kirby1 says:

    Interesting, even though the site bills itself as a Christian orientated website a significant number of poster are will to throw Christains under the bus for the sake of Islam.

  • Blake says:

    Not those of us who know right from wrong and to stand by the downtrodden oppressed, not the oppressors

  • Colin Austin Barnes says:

    Hi, a number of things need to be stated here; the above article presents no actual information. So here is a little history. re the pre-67 borders – there is no such thing. After the Palestinians and Arab League rejected the 47 UN Partition Plan, they attacked the Jewish community there. Having accepted every one of the three peace plans put forward, the Jews then defended themselves, and the cease fire lines of 1948 became a de-facto border (the Green Line), but these were never recognised as a border by the Arab League, nor by the Jordanians who had occupied the West bank, nor by the Egyptians who had occupied Gaza. Had they done so, there would have been no more conflict. In any event, after 19 years, in 1967 the Egyptians closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, kicked out the UN peace-keepers in the Sinai, mobilized their armed forces and publically declared they were about to wipe Israel out. Israel struck first, and captured Gaza and Sinai. At the same time, they contacted the Jordanians via the US and the UN, and told them if they stayed out of the fight, then Israel had no quarrel with them. Jordan chose rather to attack across the Green Line, which it had never accepted as a legitimate border in any case. Its artillery shelled Jewish Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, its air force attacked both cities also, and its ground forces attacked across the Green Line in three places. At this point, Israel responded and captured the West Bank. The question is, why should a cease fire line which the Arabs never recognised as a legit border, which they crossed with armies and which only existed for 19 years, now be considered as internationally binding for all time?

    Two quick examples; in 1927, Orthodox Jews legally purchased some barren land south of Jerusalem from German Trappist monks. This became the Kfar Etzion block. In 1948 the settlement was illegally attacked by the Jordanian army (the area was still officially under British rule), 240 men and women were killed, the rest captured. Over 400,000 trees that they had planted were then uprooted. Now, 19 years later, the now vacant land was again under Israeli control. The children of the original settlement who had been evacuated before it fell then asked to go and re-build where their parents had lived and died. Today the Etzion area is a thriving community of over 20,000. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to live there? Also in 1948, the Jordanian army ethnically cleansed the Jewish quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. Jews had been living there since the time of Jesus, with a few interruptions. The Jews there were non-Zionist, and pacifist, but were driven out anyway, and the synagogues destroyed, used as toilets etc. Again, after 19 years, Jews returned, cleaned up and rebuilt the Jewish quarter. Why should they be forced to leave again just because the Palestinians rejected peace in 47 and again in 67? Clearly, the majority of the West bank is occupied by the Palestinian population, and a two state solution would be great, and the Palestinian state would loosely resemble the 48 cease fire lines they rejected then, but to slavishly insist that these lines, which were never respected when they existed, must now be inviolate and absolute, is ridiculous.

  • Larry TheKeyboardist Blake says:

    I can’t be the only one who finds it ironic that a country whose most common religion is the same religion that was a favorite target of the Nazis during WWII is now trying to do the same exact things to Palestine and other Middle Eastern nations.

  • Andrew says:

    Nobody is completely innocent in this conflict, but to say that the two sides are equal in wrongs or that Israel is the greater evil is simply false. If the Palestinians were to lay down their weapons there would be no more fighting. If Israel were to lay down their weapons there would be no more Israel.
    P.S. If your worried about Christian persecution then why don’t you support Israel more? They are the only country in the Middle East ( besides the fledgling nation of Kurdistan, which I pray will win recognition from the national community) where Christian are not treated as second class citizens. Christianity in Israel is flourishing. The Palestinian Christians are persecuted for their faith by Palestinian Muslims. The only reason they are killed by Israel is because Israel is trying to stop those same Muslims from launching rockets at Israel, and the Christians become unintended collateral.

  • Jock Doubleday says:

    “Biblical ethics” is a contradiction in terms. It’s a book of genocide, rape, and slavery.

  • Iztherapist says:

    Thank you for this, but you missed something important: if Israel was mostly Sephardic (non-European, Middle Eastern) Jews rather than Ashkenazi (white European) Jews, this wouldn’t even be an issue: neither America nor the overwhelmingly white evangelical population would care. This is as much, if not more, about ‘they look like us’ than it is about any Biblical reasoning.

  • jimoppenheimer says:

    Well, I do agree with part of what the writer says. While I don’t see Israel as the chosen people, it certainly is true and has been true for some time that much of the rest of the world has been out to get them. I believe it was Golda Meir of blessed memory who said that there will be peace in the Middle East when the Palestinians “love their children more than they hate us.”
    No, I don’t care at all for the stuff going on which causes problems for the Palestinians, but let’s be fair here. The Israelis have tried to make peace, and every time they have done it. some extremist — usually somebody on the Palestinian side — has done something to destabilize things. When the Palestinians learn from the Irish, they will have peace.

  • cken says:

    I think the author is ignoring history. Was Jerusalem originally part of a Muslim country or part of the Hebrew country established by Moses and Aaron.

  • Marshall D. Seganlevia says:

    Mr. Corey, I think you are the one suffering from confirmation bias.I suggest you read “From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict Over Palestine”, by award-winning journalist Joan Peters. Like you, she had a pro-Palestinian bias when she began researching the book. However, in the process of researching and writing the work, that bias disappeared. Why? Because she discovered objective facts that proved that Israel has historical truth on its side, and that much of the pro-Palestinian argument is fueled by political propaganda and outright hatred of Jews–not just Zionists. As a Jewish Christian, I hope you will read this book with an open mind, and an open heart.

    I am a Zionist who has read, watched, and listened to stories about the plight of the Palestinians. I believe that the Israeli government has committed some injustices against them, especially under the rule of the Likud Party. I have also paid attention to stories about Palestinians receiving justice from Israeli courts; have you? I have read about Israeli soldiers who have been tried by Israeli courts and imprisoned by Israel for committing crimes against Palestinians; have you? I have read stories of Israeli Arabs and Druze who have served honorably and heroically in the Israel Defense Force of their own free will because they realize that they have more freedom in Israel than they would have in any other Middle Eastern country; have you?

  • Clarence Mercer says:

    His argument has some good points but overall is using bias the same way he accuses supporters of Israel of doing. I feel there is far more compassion from Israel to Palestinians than the other way around.

    • Christian Truth says:

      I suggest you look at the 1967 attack on the USS Liberty, the death of Rachel Corrie & the motto of the Mossad then please tell me how this lines up with bias. Ilan Pappe (an Israeli) author is among many who have come out to expose the violence against Palestinians. If America knew by Alison Weir details the unlawful actions as well.There are also a group of Israeli women who stand in defense of the Palestinians as they witness first hand the harsh treatment. We should not elevate any nation above any other & especially one that has violated international law time & time again. Norman Finklestein is another Jewish author that exposes the truth. Once again ‘truth’ does not fear investigation…I suggest all people investigate both sides before coming to any conclusions as I, too, was once one of the people that supported Israel. I no longer can.

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