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February 02, 2007

Merkley Exposes Carter and Sizer's Suspicious Fantasies

Paul Merkley, author of Christian Attitudes Towards the State of Israel and American Presidents, Religion, and Israel: The Heirs of Cyrus is one of the more trenchant observers of the relationship between Christian churches and the State of Israel. His recent review in Christianity Today demonstrates his ability to counter the suspicious fantasies that motivate many of Israel's critics today.

The following passage (part of Merkley's criticism of Stephen Sizer's alarmist book Christian Zionism: The Road Map to Armageddon?) is brutal, but spot on:

It is a common feature of anti-Christian Zionist literature that little interest is shown in the actual historical circumstances that brought the modern State of Israel into existence. In Sizer's book there is absolutely none, unless we count this oddity on page 148: "in 1948 the U.S. government was just as opposed to the founding of the State of Israel [as was] Britain." Is this revisionism, or what? It is Franklin Roosevelt attacking the Japanese fleet at Pearl Harbor. Did none of that long list of people who are thanked on the Acknowledgements page twig to this incriminating bit of confusion? Does InterVarsityPress not have fact-checkers? This is embarrassing. It is, however, all we have to indicate that Sizer knows that once there was no State of Israel but now there is—somehow.

What is Merkley getting at? Sizer's failure to acknowledge a couple of basic facts of history: The U.S. voted in favor of UN Resolution 181 in 1947 and President Truman recognized Israel within 11 minutes after Israel declared independence at the stroke of midnight on May 14, 1948. The fact that Stephen Sizer is able to blandly assert, without further explanation, that the U.S. government was somehow "opposed to the founding of the State of Israel" in the face of these facts is a good indication of the quality of Sizer's book, his research, and his thinking.

Merkley demolishes Jimmy Carter's Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid with this bit of incisive criticism:

There is not a word about Islam in Carter's book, except in passing as a benign presence (like the Christian church, here and there) consoling lives lived in the shadow of Jewish oppression. Neither is there any developed attention to the dynamic of terror, except to note in passing that decent people don't do certain things—never naming the names of those who proudly claim "responsibility," thus leaving us with the impression that the failure of decency is evenly distributed. Indeed, it is the Palestinians who are the primary victims of terror, since Israel seizes upon "provocative acts by Arab militants" as excuses for "devastating military response." Admittedly, "Some Palestinians react by honoring suicide bombers as martyrs to be rewarded in heaven and consider the killing of Israelis as victories." Regrettable, but perfectly understandable.

This allusion to "provocative acts" just about uses up Carter's interest in discussing terrorism. What is more interesting to him is Israel's inexplicable practice of locking up "thousands of Palestinians" in its prisons. Indeed, "one of the vulnerabilities of Israel, and a potential cause of violence is the holding of prisoners … [including] the revered prisoner, Marwan Bargouti." (Bargouti is "revered," in case you didn't know, because he is directly responsible for the murder of several Israeli citizens. To Israel it makes sense that he should be a prisoner. To Carter, it does not.) In view of this policy of locking up thousands of people (inexplicable except in terms of some kind of congenital sadism), we are invited to admire the tactical genius which motivates the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers—namely, the reckoning that in the past Israel has exchanged "1,150 Palestinians for three Israelis in 1985; 123 Lebanese for the remains of two Israeli soldiers in 1996," and so on. This passage, in my view, is the lowest point so far in Jimmy Carter's descent into total Chomskyism.

When Christians like Stephen Sizer and former President Carter speak prophetically about the Arab-Israeli conflict, they would do well to look closely at the writings of the Old Testatment prophets. Virtually all of their testimonies begin with a superscript detailing that section of history during which they preached. The call for justice was rooted in history, not suspicious fantasy.

Posted by CameraBlog at February 2, 2007 10:59 AM

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