(September 25, 2019 / JNS) It was an Irishman, Daniel O’Connell, who persuaded the British government in 1846 to repeal an ancient discriminatory law prescribing distinctive dress for Jews. The rest of Europe followed suit.
Now, in a strange twist of fate, the free Ireland that O’Connell lived for is about to enshrine in law the modern equivalent of discrimination against Jews: BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions). It is the first national parliament in Europe to do so.
This law would criminalize the importing or selling of goods produced in Israeli towns in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. What is called the West Bank is, in fact, part of the biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria.
From a pedestal in the heart of Dublin, O’Connell surveys the city where he once served as Lord Mayor. Would the Irish Liberator have been dismayed at Dublin’s Upper and Lower Chamber approving the BDS bill? As one of O’Connell’s descendants, I know I am. As a Christian, I am also disturbed at the implications. Whereas Irish monks preserved the Bible for Western civilization, such legislation goes against the Bible, effectively delegitimizing Israel and ignoring God’s warnings in Joel 3:2 not to divide His land. What kind of legacy is this from the land of saints and scholars?
Ireland has a tradition of supporting the underdog. But in this case, who is the oppressor?
Several devout Christians—all known to me personally as victims of oppression—are noted for their love for Israel. They range from a Polish survivor of Nazi terror, a Chinese academic whose father was deposed by the Mao regime, an Iranian pastor imprisoned for his faith and an Aboriginal community leader to a minister of color who helped to facilitate reconciliation at the end of apartheid.
If Israel really were an oppressor, as her critics claim, it is remarkable that oppressed folk love her.
A powerful image from the Bible comes to mind. Leviticus 16 describes a goat driven into the wilderness bearing the people’s sins. As we see Israel effectively being exiled from the community of nations, could it be because we are ascribing to Israel our own sins when we brand it as a Nazi or apartheid state?
Are such slurs even true? In Israel, Arab citizens have sat in every parliament since its inception in 1949.
I remember attending two rallies in Sydney in summer 2014: one was in support of Israel and the other was in support of the persecuted Christians of Iraq. A Middle East Christian spoke at the Israel rally, a Jewish leader the next day at the Middle East Christian rally.
As Christians, shouldn’t we regard Jews as our elder brother?
“At the close of the age … ”, wrote our late founder Mother Basilea Schlink, “there will be a bringing together of those who belong together because they fear the living God and give Him glory—Jews and Christians. A foreshadowing of this could be seen in the Nazi era when both Jews and Christians suffered persecution and were often found together in concentration camps, although the Jews were by far the more fiercely persecuted. It is known, however, that Hitler intended to proceed with the same ruthlessness against the Christians after he had won the war” (Israel, God’s Chosen People: A German Confession Before God and the Jews).
So why this antagonism among Christians towards Israel? Is it because of a misunderstanding of the Bible and God’s purposes? God chose Israel in order to be a blessing to all nations. In rejecting Israel as God’s chosen people, we are opposing the God of Israel, as well as cheating ourselves of the blessing He intends for us.
As Dublin’s parliament gears up for the finalizing of the BDS bill, do they know what they are doing to the very people they purport to help? Some of the firms and businesses targeted by the sanctions may face closure and even bankruptcy. Many of their employees are Palestinians, who consequently could soon lose their jobs and source of livelihood, thus becoming the real victims of this misguided policy.
More seriously, if Israel were to be wiped from the map, which is the stated goal of Hamas, would the Holy Land end up like its war-torn neighbors? Don’t our hearts break to see Israel’s neighbors betrayed by their leaders, who display a callous disregard for the sanctity of life, exploiting women and children for their purposes?
Are there not, in fact, two underdogs—Israel and the Palestinians—both victimized by the same oppressor?
Indeed, Ireland is setting a dangerous precedent as the first European parliament to implement BDS.
Sister Anastasia Kennedy is of the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, an ecumenical, Lutheran-based religious order.
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