Sophia Har | Staff Writer
“The people of God should support Israel. Israel deserves the Holy Land. The Palestinians are dangerous.”
On Monday, Oct. 1, Plowshares, Solidarity Cabinet and the Community Diversity Committee sponsored the screening of the 2010 film “With God On Our Side” to challenge the Wheaton community to think critically about these traditionally espoused worldviews related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The documentary, directed and produced by Porter Speakman, Jr., seeks to question the theology of Christian Zionism and to tell the “untold stories” of Palestinians living in the Holy Land.
It features diverging perspectives from Christians who strongly support Israelis over Palestinians, and from Christians who criticize Christian Zionism and advocate for reconciliation between the two groups.
Following the screening, four panelists shared their thoughts and answered questions from the audience. The panel consisted of Speakman, professor Gary Burge from the biblical and theological studies department, Professor Emeritus Gilbert Bilezikian and Hythem Shadid ‘79.
While the film criticizes Christian Zionism, it does not promote a pro-Palestinian position.
Rather, as Shadid said, it reflects a call to the Church “to be peacemakers and not political solvers.”
“The point is to ask questions,” Speakman said. “We need to learn more.”
Speakman charged students to recognize that “one of the core battles that we’re facing is dehumanization. Fight dehumanization on any level, no matter where you see it, no matter what happens.”
The documentary captures the humanity of individuals involved in the conflict with footage of American Christians waving Israeli flags and singing songs in Hebrew, of Jews storming a Palestinian market and chanting “Death to Arabs!” and of Palestinian children on a playground.
One motif in the debate of conflicting interests centers on the wall that the Israeli government has built dividing Israel from the Palestinian West Bank. In 2003, following violent Palestinian uprisings, Israel began to work on the wall. Zionists favor the barrier as a safeguard of national security that has reportedly reduced Palestinian suicide-bombings and terrorism.
Burge said that the ultimate purpose of the wall was not to bring security but “to defeat psychologically a people who needed to be pacified.”
According to Burge a large number of Palestinians “hop the wall every day,” yet the Israeli government has taken no action to stop the flow.
The wall penetrates so deeply into Palestinian territory that thousands of Palestinians live on the Israeli side of the barrier, isolating Palestinians from one another.
Bilezikian countered the Zionist interpretation of Genesis 12:3, where God tells Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth with be blessed through you.”
“The ‘you’ in this blessing is singular, directed to Abraham as an individual,” Bilezikian said. “From a biblical perspective Abraham never possessed the land, and neither did his children.”
Bilezikian also said, “I’m surprised there isn’t as much guilt among our … Zionist friends regarding the existence of … the concentration camps of ghettos.”
Other issues within the Israeli-Palestinian conflict include the lack of access to academic opportunities for Palestinians, the numerous checkpoints that Palestinians must go through each day, the influence of the Israel Lobby and the preoccupation with Jewish culture found among many evangelical Christians.
Students expressed appreciation of the opportunity to engage the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“(The film) was very eye opening (and) motivates my curiosity of the subject,” said freshman Maria Herrera, who has Palestinian heritage but grew up hearing only the pro-Israel argument.
Senior Jono Seneff said, “I feel motivated to challenge clearly unwarranted assumptions that my family and friends may have. My knowledge has ... increased after seeing this.”
Correction: The Record would like to clarify that in Professor Emeritus Bilezikian's quote, “I’m surprised there isn’t as much guilt among our … Zionist friends regarding the existence of … the concentration camps of ghettos," Bilezikian was not referring to the Palestinian Occupied territories, but to the ghettos found in American cities; in other words, he was speaking in broader terms of social justice in the U.S. The Record regrets the error.
Photo and Banner Credit: Brooke Green
Printed in the October 5, 2012, issue of The Wheaton Record. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.