Petra Marquardt-Bigman has an excellent post at her ‘Warped Mirror’ blog about Ben White and his new book, which she terms as the “Israeli apartheid gospel.” How true that really is. Whilst current reviewers of Ben White’s book have looked at fake quotes, dubious sources, and the ethics of recommending Holocaust deniers to beginners, one subject left mostly untouched is the theology which Ben White employs.
It is rumoured that Ben White is writing a book on ‘justice and mission’ for YTC Press, to be published at a later date. Ben White has revealed his interest in theology through a public letter published on the 60th anniversary of the birth of the state of Israel, which you can read here. White and his fellow blogger Philip Rizk end the letter thus:
We therefore urge all those working for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine to consider that any lasting solution must be built on the foundation of justice, which is rooted in the very character of God. After all, it is justice that “will produce lasting peace and security” (Isaiah 32:17). Let us commit ourselves in prophetic word and practical deed to a courageous settlement whose details will honour both peoples’ shared love for the land, and protect the individual and collective rights of Jews and Palestinians in the Holy Land.
“Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid” (Micah 4:4)
In April 2008, Ben White published on The Guardian‘s Comment Is Free, tellingly titled ‘The Other Evangelicals.’ Having mentioned the predominance of Christian Zionists and pro-Israel evangelicals amongst American Christians, White writes about those ‘other evangelicals’. White reassures us that ‘already by the mid-1980s there were signs of dissent,’ hailing the creation of the group Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding, and celebrating the ‘alternative theology’ on Israel:
What is the whole enterprise of settling Jews in the land and setting up a Jewish state doing to the soul of Judaism? Did God really intend that they should be ‘a peculiar people’ for ever and ever? Is there no alternative to the choice between traditional orthodox Judaism, assimilation and Zionism? Is there no other way by which the Jews can live securely among the nations without ceasing to be Jews?
Ben White also recommends Stephen Sizer, whose political opposition to Israel is at least supported by his theological ideas about Israel being a ‘rejected vineyard,’ as you can hear in this sermon. Sizer has also said he ‘fears another exile’ for Jews in Israel. His book Christian Zionism alleges Israeli complicity in 9/11.
According to Sizer, Palestine must be liberated from the Jews, He has forwarded emails from Holocaust deniers and Christian antisemites, given interviews to and promoted the work of those on the American Far Right, and shared a platform with various Islamists and antisemites.
“Six million Jews in the USA have an influence that is out of all proportion to their numbers in the total population of 281 million. Through wealth, education, skill and single-mindedness over many years they have gained positions of power in government, business and the media. It is widely recognised, for example, that no one could ever win the presidential race without the votes and the financial support of substantial sections of the Jewish community.”
In ‘Israeli Apartheid’: A Beginners’ Guide, Ben White cites Chapman’s book Whose Holy City? in order to cite claims about East Jerusalem, yet Chapman as a source is far from authoritative. White’s book comes with glowing recommendations from other prominent Christians, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who likewise believes the Jewish lobby is ‘powerful, very powerful’ in America, and Garth Hewitt, the Anglican canon who came up with the idea to re-write Christmas carols as anti-Zionist hymns – a spiritual accompaniement to the ‘Israeli Apartheid’ Gospel if ever there was one.
Additionally, there is a commendation from Nur Masalha, prompting one observer to write:
More than ever, Christian leaders and Churches need to stand up and be counted. This could mean many things: pilgrimages that show solid arity with Palestinians; targeted boycotts of Israeli products; writing to MPs; inviting Palestinian speakers; twinning; film screenings; selling Palestinian-made goods.
This, White has reasoned elsewhere, is popular struggle, which:
‘”like violent resistance, is not an end in and of itself; it is a method, a strategy. It is the end goal, decolonization and liberation from occupation and Zionist apartheid, that is ferociously opposed by the self-declared international guardians of the “peace process” and their friends in the Palestinian elite. The rest is just smoke and mirrors.”
Indeed, whilst White encourages anti-Israel boycotts in the West, he writes glowingly of Palestinian Christians who have taken part in violent activities against Israel.
Ben White wrote an article in the Al Aqsa journal (edited by Islamist antisemite Ismail Patel, who shares with Ben White an apparent admiration for French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy), entitled ‘Palestinian-Christian/Muslim Relations: Myths, Propaganda and Realities.’
What is most interesting is that White frames Muslim-Christian co-operation amongst Palestinians by focusing on their response to Zionism, writing:
‘I will look at how Christian and Muslim Palestinians have traditionally lived and worked alongside each other, with a focus on their united front against the Zionist movement.’
White informs readers that:
‘From the Arab Revolt in 1936, to the flourishing of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in the mid-1960s, Christian Palestinians played a significant role in the resistance to Israel.’
White even quotes the founder of the Islamic Jihad movement as having said:
‘in our movement we accept the participation of our Christian brothers in our struggle without them having to change their religious beliefs.’
White, seeking to break down ‘Zionist propaganda’ that Palestinian Muslims persecute Palestinian Christians, even lays the blame with Israel for inter-Palestinian honour killings, writing:
‘Israel’s territorial fragmentation of Palestine has always threatened to affect Palestinian society on a wider-level and indeed, there are worrying signs that the “sociocide” being practised by Israel has gradually pressurized Palestinian society to breaking point. One such indication is the increase in so-called ‘honour killings’ in recent years, a phenomenon that has sometimes been presented as part of a Muslim-Christian conflict within Palestine.’
The impression gained by these articles is that Ben White defines his form of Christianity as a response to Zionism. Just as the virtue and earnestness of American evangelicals can be judged according to their opposition to Zionism, as we saw in White’s piece from The Guardian, so too can the legitimate Palestinian credentials of Palestinian Christians can be judged by their participation in ‘resistance’ against Zionism.
We see here how the ‘Israeli Apartheid’ Gospel inspires Christians in the West to be free of Zionism and colonalism, whilst inspiring Palestinian Christians to be authentically Palestinian. For Ben White, to be Palestinian is to ‘resist’ Zionism (consider, lest we forget, what White has to say about Palestinians who pursue peace with Israel).
Perhaps the most ironic aspect of the Israeli Apartheid Gospel is that, for those who genuinely believe in it, it needs Israel to survive.
Without Israel, what would become of Palestinian-Christian/Muslim relations, previously held together by a united fight against Zionism? And how else could Western Christians prove their commitment to peace and justice without Israel to boycott?