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TBC Staff

Christian Palestinianism [Excerpts]

by Thomas Ice

Paul Wilkinson, a British Christian Zionist, recently included a chapter in his book For Zion's Sake[1] about a movement that is the polar opposite of Christian Zionism he termed "Christian Palestinianism." He defines it as "a relatively new, largely intellectual, professedly Christian, anti-Zionist movement [that] has sprung up alongside [Christian Zionism], which I have classified as Christian Palestinianism."[2] "Naim Ateek essentially founded Christian Palestinianism in 1994 when he launched the Palestinian Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center known as Sabeel."[3]

Sabeel, at its Fifth International Conference in Jerusalem in 2004 entitled "Challenging Christian Zionism," advanced a leftist agenda against Christians who support the modern state of Israel. Some of those who claim to be evangelicals who attended and spoke at the conference include Stephen Sizer, Donald Wagner, Marc Ellis of Baylor University, and Gary Burge of Wheaton College. Demonstrating its alliance with Islam, the highlight of the conference for many was a meeting by the entire group with Yasser Arafat in his compound at Ramallah. The final statement issued at the conference included the following: "we warn that the theology of Christian Zionism is leading to the moral justification of empire, colonization, apartheid, and oppression."[4]

Christian Palestinianism is basically a system of thought that opposes Christian Zionism. Philip Saa'd, a Palestinian Christian who lives in Haifa, Israel says, "In recent years a phenomenon of palestinization has also occurred among the Christian Arabs who live in Israel." Saa'd describes these recent developments in the following way: "liberation theology," "amillennialism, Replacement theology and the Covenant of Grace theology." It also includes a "strong rejection of dispensationalism and of a literal interpretation of the Bible."[5] He notes that some Christian Palestinians "do not use the Old Testament as a source for their theology" and that "some writers still use the Old Testament but selectively," while he characterizes them as all using "a spiritual hermeneutic."[6]

Bat Ye'or, an Egyptian scholar, has an entire chapter in her recent book Eurabia about the Islamization of Christianity.[7] It is breathtaking to read her well-documented chapter in which she says, "Palestinian Marcionism (Palestinianism) paves the way for the Islamization of the Church as it prepares mentalities for an Islamic replacement theology."[8] How do they attempt to reach this goal? Palestinianism "presses for the removal of the Gospels from their Judaic matrix and their grafting onto Arab Palestinianism, thus bringing them closer to Islam."[9] After citing some of the organizations advocating such things, she notes: "The process of Islamization of Christianity is rooted precisely in this separation from Judaism and the Arabization and Palestinization of the Jewish Jesus."[10]"Many Christian Palestinians, like Muslims, do not admit to any historical or theological link between the biblical Israel, the Jewish people, and the modern State of Israel."[11]

[1] Paul Richard Wilkinson, For Zion's Sake: Christian Zionism and the Role of John Nelson Darby (Milton Keynes, England: Paternoster, 2007), xix, 308 pages.
[2] Wilkinson, For Zion's Sake, p. 48.
[3] Wilkinson, For Zion's Sake, p. 49.
[4] Information about the conference taken from a non-published report by Paul Wilkinson who attended the conference.
[5] Philip Saa'd, "How Shall We Interpret Scripture about the Land and Eschatology? Jewish and Arab Perspectives" in Wesley H. Brown and Peter F. Penner, editors, Christian Perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (Pasadena, CA: William Carey International University Press, 2008), p. 114.
[6] Saa'd, "How Shall We Interpret," p. 115.
[7] Bat Ye'or, Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis (Teaneck, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2006), pp. 211–24.
[8] Ye'or, Eurabia, p. 213.
[9] Ye'or, Eurabia, p. 214.
[10] Ye'or, Eurabia, p. 214.
[11] Ye'or, Eurabia, p. 214.