From February 9-10, 2007 within walking distance from The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, a few hundred thoughtful, committed citizens of the world gathered with hope to make a difference in Palestine-Israel. Sponsored by Friends of Sabeel (Arabic for The Way) in North America/FOSNA: secular peace and justice activists, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Unitarians and others responded to this reporter's inquiry of why they were there:
"I am a full time Grad student and got involved with Jump Start. I am doing my thesis about the fields being bulldozed in Gaza." (www.jumpstartinternational.org) -- Leigh
"I am seeking the truth and I know the American media hasn't been reporting it." -- Louise
"I am a USA taxpayer and want to know where my money is going and for what." -- Horace
Among the speakers were Cindy and Craig Corrie, parents of Rachel, the 23 year old peace activist from Olympia, Washington who was crushed underneath a Caterpillar bulldozer in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip nearly four years ago. The entire Corrie family have ever since persistently dedicated their lives to the altruistic Rachel's cause.
It was on March 16, 2003 , that an Israeli soldier driving a US-made Caterpillar bulldozer crushed Rachel, an activist with the NONVIOLENT International Solidarity Movement. Rachel had been nonviolently protesting the demolition of a home she had been living in and which belonged to Samir Nasrallah, a Palestinian pharmacist with five children. On the south west border of the Mediterranean Sea, the village of Rafah is home to 140,000 people, 60% of whom are refugees and who are among the 1.3 million residents of the Gaza Strip: an open air prison, for Israel has consistently maintained total control of air, water and land borders-even after the "Disengagement" in the summer of 2005.
Despite the bright orange vest that Rachel wore, and the fact that she stood 20 meters in front of the bulldozer for hours, the Israeli soldier contended that he did not see her and after crushing her once, he backed up and crushed her again.
Rachel's parents called on the US State
Department to conduct an investigation into the details of Rachel's
murder. On March 25, 2003, US Representative Brian Baird presented
Resolution 111 which called on the US government to "undertake a full,
fair, and expeditious investigation into Rachel's death."
But Rachel and her family's activism have left deep footprints in Gaza and into the USA. From the Rachel Corrie Kindergarten and the Rachel Corrie Cultural Center for Children in Rafah to the Olympia-Rafah Sister City Project, citizens of the world are building community in the spirit of compassion and with persistent determination that celebrates the dignity of all human life through the pursuit of justice, international law and human rights.
The petite and dynamic secular Jew,
journalist, prolific author, Middle East analyst and Co-founder and
Co-Chair of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Dr. Phyllis
Bennis stated, "I actually agreed with NY Times columnist David
Brooks the other day. He wrote, 'The US has always exercised as much power
as it could' but while he celebrated this fact, I thought about American
hegemony and hypocrisy. . .
The Rev. Donald Wagner, Director of the Center for Mid East Studies and Associate Professor of Biblical Theology and Religion at North Park University addressed the fastest growing cult in the USA ; which is also politically driven and a modern Christian heresy; the cult of Christian Zionism.
"I grew up in west New York in a Christian fundamentalist home steeped in the Christian Zionism theology particular to the Scofield Bible. According to their "meta-narrative" of scripture of Pre-Millennial Dispensation we are now in the last days of history and only those 'born again' will be raptured out of the Lake of Fire. The statehood of Israel in 1948 was their marker to begin their countdown."
Throughout history Christians have at times twisted scripture to justify violence: for the Crusades, for Anti-Semitism, and for slavery. Today, Christian Zionists -- particularly those with dispensationalist leanings -- have re-popularized this 19th century heresy. While their motives are couched in terms of compassion toward the Jewish people based on a literal miss-reading of scripture they are inherently anti-Semitic for unless the Jews convert to their small god, the Jews will be left behind in a nuclear holocaust.
Briefly stated, Christian Zionism is a movement within Protestant fundamentalism that understands the modern state of the country-region Israel as the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and thus deserving of political, financial, and religious support. Christian Zionists work closely with the Israeli government, religious and secular Jewish Zionist organizations, and are particularly empowered during periods when the more conservative Likud Party is in control of the Knesset. Both the secular and religious media place Christian Zionists within the larger Protestant evangelical movement, which claims upwards of 100-125 million supporters in the United States. To be more precise, Christian Zionism should be placed within the fundamentalist wing of Protestant Christianity, as the evangelical movement is far large and more diverse in its theology and historical development.
The Religious Right, Zionism, the Neo-conservative ideology of empire building and Post 9/11 fear have been the perfect match for the flourishing of the heresy of Christian Zionism.
While fundamentalists number less than 25% of Evangelicals, the 19th century invention of the rapture has gone mainstream and today 59% of Christians believe the rapture will be an actual historical fact.
The Late Great Planet Earth and the Left Behind series both espouse the "meta-narrative" and Myth of Redemptive Violence. These neo-con, neo-Christians epitomize the spirit of the anti-Christ with their belief and passion that evil can be over come by violent force. This is absolutely contrary to the gospel Christ preached and modeled with his life: who remained nonviolent even while being mocked, whipped and nailed to a cross.
During the 1970s, the emergence of the Christian Rights political activism was warmly embraced by President Regan who spoke about Armageddon on six public occasions and who hosted AIPAC and the Christian Right at annual White House dinners.
Post 9/11, the convergence among the neo-conservative ideology of empire building, the Pro-Israeli Lobby, Christian fundamentalism and Israeli political leaders who have blatantly defied International Law and ignored the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights have brought us to this crossroads in time.
While most mainline Churches and progressive Christians consider Christian Zionism irrelevant or ridiculous, these anti-Christ fundamentalist's are a well organized well funded force that demonize Muslims, are inherently anti-Semitic, who ignore the indigenous people of the Holy Land's right to self determination and human rights. They are not just miss-reading scripture, they also justify empire building, apartheid, colonialism, and oppression and relegate God to the role of real estate broker.
When the disciples asked Jesus if he was going to restore the kingdom of Israel, JC replied: "You are not to know the times nor seasons; you are to be my Witnesses in the world and live the Gospel of love, compassion and forgiveness. JC also promised that it is the Peacemakers who are the children of God."
Eileen Fleming has been to the OPT four times since June 2005. She is the reporter and editor of We Are Wide Awake. Her second book, Memoirs of a Nice Irish-American 'Girl's' Life in Occupied Territory will be released Feb. 2007.
Other Articles by Eileen Fleming