Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a podcast interview in which he said that Israel has a “biblical right” to the Palestinian West Bank, to which he referred as “Judea and Samaria,” and is not “an occupying nation.” So reports Chris McGreal for The Guardian..
Pompeo defended the Trump administration’s craven capitulation to virtually every demand of the Israeli far right, including recognizing the illegal annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights, which brazenly contravenes the United Nations Charter, which forbids the acquisition of territory by warfare. You see, the Nazis used to do things like invade and annex territory from their neighbors, and the UN was attempting to avoid that sort of behavior in future, not use it as a model.
- “The previous secretary of state ran back and forth from Tel Aviv to Ramallah and tried to draw lines on a map. We said: ‘That’s not in America’s best interest. Let’s go create peace,’ and we did.”
According to the UN, while Trump was in office, 536 Palestinians were killed and 57,909 were wounded by Israeli security forces and squatters on the Palestinian West Bank. At the same time 40 Israelis were killed by Palestinians and 490 were injured.
Indeed, it was on Pompeo’s watch that Israeli snipers shot down unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza during the Great March of Return demonstrations, killing 214 of the protesters in the first two years and wounding 36,100 (8,000 of them children), hundreds of whom were crippled for life by deliberate shots to the kneecap. Investigations by human rights organizations found that almost none of the killings or woundings could be justified under the international law of war. It was just shooting fish in a barrel for the purposes of repression.
And that, friends, is Pompeo’s definition of “peace.” Of course he is referring to the “Abraham Accords,” an opportunity for the United Arab Emirates, which has never de facto been at war with Israel, to invest in the Israeli high tech sector and vice versa, and which has nothing whatsoever to do with Israeli-Palestinian peace.
The Roman historian Tacitus quoted an enemy lambasting Rome and saying, “To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace.” Tacitus didn’t agree, but ironically it has become one of his most famous lines. It could as easily have been directed against Mike Pompeo.
As for the Israeli Right’s [illegal] claim to the Palestinian West Bank — “Judea and Samaria” — being a “Christian” position, that is just incorrect.
If Pompeo is saying that contemporary Jews have a biblical right to the lands of ancient Israel because of God’s promise to Abraham, he is contradicted by Jesus and St. Paul.
Jesus was not interested in territory, as shown by Matthew 22:
- “17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 Then he said to them, “Whose head is this and whose title?” 21 They answered, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”
He talked about the kingdom of heaven instead, as did Paul.
Genesis 12:7 says that after God brought Abraham from Ur in what is now Iraq (i.e. he was not indigenous but an immigrant), “The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.”
St. Paul wrote in Galatians 3,
- 15 Brothers and sisters, I give an example from daily life: once a person’s will has been ratified, no one adds to it or annuls it. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring; it does not say, “And to offsprings,” as of many, but it says, “And to your offspring,” that is, to one person, who is Christ. 17 My point is this: the law, which came four hundred thirty years later, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. 18 For if the inheritance comes from the law, it no longer comes from the promise, but God granted it to Abraham through the promise.
Paul held that God’s promise of the land to Abraham was only that he would have a descendant, one, Jesus Christ, who would be the fulfillment of the promise. It was therefore Christians, including non-Jewish Christians, who were the true heirs of Abraham. And they were not interested in land or territory but in salvation and entry into the kingdom of God, which they thought was near.
Paul was involved in polemics with Peter and other Jewish Christians based in Jerusalem, who could not imagine that someone could be a real Christian who was from a gentile background, whose parents worshiped Jupiter and Venus, and who did not practice Jewish law or halakhah
Paul was contemptuous of this demand for the practice of Judaism to precede receiving the blessing of Christ and through him of Abraham. (He was not anti-Jewish, as Luther interpreted him, nor anti-law, he just insisted that gentiles could convert to Christianity without converting to Judaism first.) He pointed out that the promise to Abraham came hundreds of years before Moses received the tablets of the law on Mt. Sinai, implying that law could not possibly have been the crux of faith or else it would have come simultaneously with the promise to Abraham.
Paul had declared earlier in Galatians 3, “6 Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” 7 so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. 8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would reckon as righteous the gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the gentiles shall be blessed in you.” 9 For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed.”
So from Paul’s point of view, the promise was only through Christ, so that Jews who rejected Christ deprived themselves of the blessing of Abraham’s one central offspring, and former pagans who accepted Christ received the blessing instead.
That is, from Paul’s point of view, it is the Palestinian Christians, some ten percent of the Palestinian population, who are the rightful heirs of the promise to Abraham. And Muslim Palestinians believe in Mary and Jesus. Nostra Aetate of the Second Vatican Council says that non-Christian religions such as Islam “often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men” and praises Muslims for “revering” Jesus and calling on Mary “with devotion:”
- “The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself . . .
3. The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.”
Could a Catholic Pauline theology of Abraham’s promise see Muslims also as partial recipients of the promise to Abraham through Christ?
In any case, Pompeo’s cynical and genocidal Christian Zionism reverses Paul’s abandonment of physical territory for the spiritual Kingdom of Heaven, and ignores Galatians 3:15-17, which sees faith in Christ as the way to participate in the promise to Abraham rather than adherence to Judaism or Judaic law.
I say this only as a student of the History of Religions — I don’t personally believe in a God who is a real estate broker or favors some human beings over others. I’m just pointing out that Pompeo is departing from 2023 years of Christian teaching and doing it in the name of a made-up far right wing cult.