Christmas celebrates the birth of a Jewish boy to Jewish parents in Bethlehem. With no sence of irony, the Swiss-based World Council of Churches (WCC) convened over two dozen church women in Bethlehem to rally against today’s Israel just in time for Christmas. Having come to “Palestine” to “listen,” the women fulfilled their assigned mission of endorsing Palestinian liberation and urged the WCC’s several hundred denominations around the world to “embed the Palestinian struggle against oppression” throughout the WCC’s global ecumenical mission.
Convened in collaboration with the “Palestine-Israel Ecumenical Forum,” the WCC event for women commemorated the one year anniversary of “Kairos Palestine,” in which senior Palestinian Christian clerics issued their own theological justification for resisting the “occupation.” Christians comprise a tiny percentage of overwhelmingly Muslim Palestinians. There are countless places around the world where Christians and others live under some sort of “occupation.” But these other occupations rarely interest the WCC. The Palestinian struggle uniquely arouses the Religious Left because it mobilizes opinion against Israel. The few remaining Palestinian Christians, who doubtlessly denounce the “occupation” for reasons of both conviction and self-preservation, are convenient props for the international Religious Left’s anti-Israel preoccupation. Absent Israel, groups like the WCC would have as much interest in Palestinian Christians as they do Christian minorities elsewhere in the Middle East.
The WCC church women who gathered in Bethlehem right before Christmas were activists and clergy from around the world. Predictably, they mourned about their brief exposure to Israeli checkpoints and the “Separation Barrier.” They purportedly came primarily to “listen” to indigenous Palestinians, as listening is a “mark of solidarity.” The Palestinian voices these church women heeded doubtless did not disappoint and gave them all an ear full. Armed with all the resentment and bile they were commissioned to collect, one WCC official has promised: “We shall not be silent.” Undoubtedly they won’t.
In their subsequent public pronouncement, the WCC’s women of Bethlehem bewailed they would “never forget the concrete humiliation and suffering that we witnessed at the Bethlehem checkpoint at the Separation Wall on the way to Jerusalem,” nor ignore the “dehumanizing” impact of this “inhuman situation.” Weary of “peace talking,” the WCC’s women are now adamantly ready for “peace making.” They affirmed “non-violent resistance” to the “occupation,” without specifically condemning violent resistance. And they readily affirmed “boycott” against Israel as legitimate resistance. They also notably declined to affirm Israel’s right to exist. In fact, they never mentioned the name of Israel, perhaps viewing it as untouchable. “Whether the solution is one state or two, the occupation must end,” they revealingly declared. Nor, of course, did they define what exactly is “occupied.” Is it only the West Bank and Golan? Or is all of Israel somehow an illegitimate “occupation?”
The WCC’s church women accurately observed that the “local Palestinian Christian presence in the birthplace of Christ is under threat,” while assuming that “threat” is only Israel’s “occupation.” In Israel’s complete absence, how would Palestinian Christians fare? The imploding Christian populations of other neighboring Muslim dominated Arab nations do not offer much promise that their plight would improve. In their declaration, the church women bemoaned the supposedly deep connection “between racism and the oppression of occupation,” i.e. Israel is racist. And they boldly “named the complex webs of systemic and structural oppression,” guided by “racism, economic control, militarism, colonization and gender inequalities,” all of which are multiplying the “de-humanizing effects of occupation.” In other words, Israel’s presence embodies all of the Religious Left’s favorite bugaboos.
Professing that “love” is their chief motivation, the WCC’s church women cited “love” as a “creative form of resistance,” incarnated by “non-violent actions to end the occupation, to end the violence and daily humiliation endured by Palestinians, and to put a final stop to the continuing oppressive control of land and water enabled by the occupation.” The church women pledged to “boycott, divest, and support sanctions as non-violent action.” They also promised to “repent of theologies which are used to support unjust political options and stand alongside the oppressed in their life affirming theologies.” In short, they reject Christian Zionism and embrace Palestinian Liberation Theology. On this score, since the WCC doubtless excluded any Christian Zionists from its Bethlehem jamboree, it’s doubtful any of these WCC church women needed any “repentance.” By their own definition, they are already fully sanctified. The church women additionally asked how churches might promote “an equality that is not only between one people and another, but also between women and men.” How would the rights of women fare under a completely Islamic dominated “Palestine”? Focused exclusively on Jewish Israel as the source of all oppression, these church women probably did not explore this question.
Indigenous Palestinian Christians are politically unable to express much public concern about living under Muslim rule. Western church groups like the WCC are not similarly muzzled, except by the constraints of their own anti-Western ideology. But the Religious Left likes to pretend that Christians, and women, and various minorities, and expressions of dissent, would do much better under a “liberated” Sharia-influenced Muslim Palestine than under a Jewish, democratic, Israel. It’s an untenable assertion, almost as absurd as exploiting Christmas and Bethlehem to rally against the nation of Jesus, Joseph and Mary.