It is deplorable and somewhat surprising to watch Danny Danon, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, wave a Bible at a session of the Security Council to defend his country’s theft of Palestinian land in the West Bank. He is certainly inspired by his boss, Benjamin Netanyahu, who, although secular, quotes the Bible frequently to sell his expansionist agenda.
The misuse of sacred texts to score political gains has a long history. The Bible has often been manipulated by false prophets, corrupt religious leaders, and shrewd politicians to support their self-serving agendas. In the Middle Ages, popes and emperors quoted the Bible to justify their influence on nations and armies toward committing grave atrocities. The Crusades and the Inquisition are examples. European powers supported by church leaders quoted the Bible to defend slavery and to justify colonialism. In more recent history, the Bible has been frequently used to support the occupation and ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
As the author of these paragraphs was interviewed by a Campus Crusade TV program and was presenting an alternative to Christian Zionism, a woman called the TV station and commented, “The guest speaker has no right to call himself a pastor or a follower of Christ because he must not know his Bible.” In this lady’s world view, true Christians are those who support Israel’s claims to Palestinian lands.
Regrettably, many Bible-believing Christians have been taught that the US invasions of Iraq, the destruction of Syria, and the plight of the Palestinian people are all in line with God’s end-time plan as predicted in the Bible. Some Evangelical leaders and religious TV hosts claim to be inspired by the Bible when calling on US Presidents to wage wars on majority Muslim countries. TV evangelist and pastor John Hagee, on the basis of his understanding of the Scriptures, called on President Obama to invade Iran. If, God forbid, the US invades Iran in a future scenario, some Evangelical Christians will be the loudest cheerleaders for such an invasion, as they were when the US invaded Iraq. The author remembers vividly the occasion, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, when students and staff at the Bible College he attended in Switzerland were in a state of jubilation at the result of the war. They were conditioned through books, brochures, sermons, lectures, and TV programs to believe that Israel’s victories over its Arab enemies are the fulfillment of Biblical prophecies.
Today, Neo-conservatives, hyper-Zionists and Christian Zionists are received with open arms at Trump’s White House. They helped Trump to win the 2016 election, and now the President is endorsing their eschatologically based agendas. This explains why Trump goes against all logic and international consensus to grant Israel full control over all of Jerusalem, moves the US Embassy to Jerusalem, terminates US humanitarian aid to Palestinians, and accepts Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights. Bible-waving in the face of injustice may serve Israel’s immediate agenda and bring excitement to those who speculate about the end times, but the harmful effects of Bible manipulation are immense. Following are a few of the consequences:
1. Waving the Bible to block justice is in essence an attack on the true message of the Bible: Danon waved the Bible as if to say the Bible grants exclusive rights to Israelis on all of the Holy Land while totally ignoring the rights of Palestinians to any part of their historic homeland. This logic goes counter to Biblical principles in both the Old and New Testaments that instruct the faithful not to steal or covet their neighbors’ possessions. The Bible also teaches that forcing people out of their land is a crime. Examine the following passages:
“Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land.” Isaiah 5:8. Read also the story of Ahab, Jezebel, and Naboth, 1Kings 9:1-26.
2. Distortion of the character of God: Danon’s assumption that God is only for Jews and that he does not care about other people and their aspirations is an attack on the character of God who cares for and loves all people. John 3:16 and Isaiah 45:22
3. Misleading: In his speech, Danon made many false assumptions as to the duration of the Jewish possession of Palestine. Any objective historian will know that Palestinians have lived in the Holy Land as long as Jews lived there, if not longer. It is sacrilegious for an Israeli ambassador to wave the Bible while uttering half-truths and falsehoods.
4. Obstruction to the advancement of peace: To achieve a just peace, both Israelis and Palestinians need to realize that both lived in the land for centuries and both have deep historical and emotional connections to the land. No side should deny or delegitimize the history of the other side. Danon, waving the Bible, was denying Palestinian history and Palestinians’ connection to the land. Such rhetoric adds obstacles in the path of peace and reconciliation.
5. An attack on human dignity: Danon’s waving the Bible before the Security Council of the UN is an insult to the intelligence and dignity of world leaders and the countries they represent. Does Danon assume that these leaders are not aware of the Balfour Declaration, the UN partition of Palestine in 1947, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 and after? Is he ignoring the fact that the UN voted repeatedly and overwhelmingly that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal and an obstacle to peace?
6. Indifference to human suffering: The lingering Arab-Israeli conflict has caused immense suffering to millions of people around the world but especially to Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims. Danon’s waving the Bible serves only to prolong the conflict and hence the suffering. When Israel comes to the point of wanting peace with her neighbors, her leaders will take note of the international consensus at the UN rather than having her ambassador wave the Bible to maintain a regime of oppression, death, and suffering.
The Israeli Ambassador should stop waving the Bible and start reading it. Once he reads the Bible, he may discover the following words from the prophet Isaiah:
“Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” Isaiah 1:17