(CNN) -- Roman Catholic bishops for the Middle East concluded a two-week conference with a call for the international community, especially the United Nations, to work "to put an end to the occupation" of Palestinian territories.THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: There has been a lot of hysteria surrounding the statements of some Catholic prelates after the Vatican's holy synod on the Middle East. This mainly comes from Israelis and Evangelical Zionists in the United States. While I doubt my own comments will clear the air for any of these people, it may help some others confused by the whole situation.
"The Palestinian people will thus have an independent and sovereign homeland where they can live with dignity and security," the group said in a statement Saturday at the end of a meeting headed by Pope Benedict XVI. "The State of Israel will be able to enjoy peace and security within their internationally recognized borders.
"The Holy City of Jerusalem will be able to acquire its proper status, which respects its particular character, its holiness and the religious patrimony of the three religions: Jewish, Christian and Muslim. We hope that the two-state-solution might become a reality and not a dream only."
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Zionism is not the same as Judaism. While Judaism is a religion, Zionism is a political philosophy based on false religious notions. Zionism is not attached exclusively to the Jewish religion either. In fact, there are more Christian Zionists than there are Jewish Zionists. This is because Zionism can come from either bad Jewish theology or bad Christian theology. Under bad Jewish theology, Jews are led to believe their dreams of restoring their Biblical ancestral homeland can be accomplished through modern Secular politics without the intervention of the promised Messiah. Many religious Jews object to this, pointing out that their traditions have always stated the promised Messiah must come first, then comes the return to Zion (promised land). Under bad Christian theology, many Evangelicals are led to believe the restoration of the State of Israel is a prophetic sign that God has decided to restore the ancient Biblical kingdom and it is to be supported by Christians without condition in order to gain the favor of Christ. Of course orthodox Christian theologians have pointed out for decades the first advent of Christ altered the traditional nature of God's covenant with Israel, making the Church into the new "Israel of God" and eliminating the separation between Jews and Gentiles. A proper understanding of Biblical prophecy points to the destruction of the ancient Kingdom of Israel, and the demolition of the Second Temple back in 70 AD, as the real prophetic event that defines the last 2,000 years. Christ is the new temple, and the Church is the new Israel. Therefore any attempt to restore the ancient Biblical "Kingdom of Israel" on some real estate in the Middle East is misguided and potentially blasphemous.
All that being said, Zionism (both in it's Jewish and Christian brand) became the dominate political force in the Middle East over the latter half of the 20th century. It came to be countered only by Islamic Fundamentalism which is the source of many of our problems with the Muslim world today. As of today, October 26th 2010, the State of Israel exists, and has become the homeland for millions of Jews (both religious and secular) as well as many Christians and Muslims. It is what it is, for better or worse, and these people have lived there now for almost three generations. They must be respected in their homes and persons. They are entitled to live in peace, just as any other people. While the modern State of Israel is a secular democracy (not a Biblical kingdom), and it promotes some policies that are anti-Christian in nature, it nevertheless has brought a higher standard of living to the Middle East as well as some religious freedoms unheard of in this region for nearly a thousand years. For this the Israelis should be commended.
On the other side of the coin, the State of Israel has a supremacist side that is a threat not only to the indigenous people of the region, but also it's own survival. The Israeli government has at times been influenced by Zionist fundamentalism which seeks to expand Israeli territory into the regions commonly known as Gaza and the West Bank, as well as make Jerusalem the "eternal capital of Israel," and rebuild the ancient Jewish Temple on the site where it once stood. This site is suspected to be just to the side of where the Muslim Dome of the Rock now stands. To accomplish these goals, Zionist Fundamentalists build Jewish settlements in disputed Palestinian territory with the consent of the Israeli government and often backed by Christian Zionists in the United States. They have also formed a society called the "Temple Mount Faithful" which has trained a small army of men to serve as Jewish priests in a new rebuilt temple. They have also restored all the sacred objects and vestments of the ancient Jewish priesthood. These groups also pressure the Israeli government to give them control of a portion of the Temple Mount next to where the Dome of the Rock now stands. Meanwhile they have already succeeded in getting the Israeli government to declare Jerusalem as it's capital, even though most foreign governments do not recognize this and place their embassies in Tel Aviv instead. It is this sort of influence behind the recent legislation in Israel that would force all immigrants in Israel to sign an allegiance to Israel as an exclusively "Jewish state."
What the Western World, particularly the United States, has failed to see is that Israel is a multi-religious country. Granted, most Israelis identify themselves as "Jews," but only a small percentage actually practice Judaism. A good number of those "Jews" are completely Secular, respecting no religion at all. Some of them are Buddhists and New Agers. Still others practice an occult variation of Judaism called Kabbalah. There are a good number of Christians in Israel, of various different denominations, as well as many Muslim Israelis. There are even Israeli Mormons! who are actually working to build a Mormon temple there someday. To say Israel is an exclusively "Jewish" state has no basis in reality unless one were to make it as a political statement exclusively. If it's political, than it's Zionism not Judaism.
What the Western World, particularly the United States, has also failed to see is that the regions specifically referred to as Palestine are also multi-religious. While the vast majority are Arab Muslims, there is also a sizable Arab Christian population. These Christians are generally non-political and have nothing to do with the militant actions often associated with Palestinian advocates, but they nevertheless suffer the penalties of simply being Palestinians under the heel of Israeli occupation. Many Evangelical Christians in the United States are indifferent toward the plight of their Christian brethren in Palestine. Many would take the position that it's better for Christians to leave Palestine than remain in a disputed area that "rightfully belongs to the Israelis." This is in spite of Christian justice, which unequivocally calls for the peace and respect for all indigenous people in Palestine as well as Israel, regardless of their religious persuasion.
It is in this backdrop the Vatican assembled the holy synod on the Middle East, presided over by Pope Benedict XVI. From this synod came a voice of clarity. The State of Israel, while deserving peace and security, is not entitled to unlimited expansion into the territories commonly known as Palestine, and that Christian justice demands the indigenous people of Palestine are themselves entitled to their own homeland, a sovereign state with real borders and real autonomy.
The implication of this, which has caused so much controversy, is the assertion that there is no Biblical argument, neither Jewish Zionist nor Christian Zionist, that can rightfully justify the immoral and Antichrist notion of Israeli supremacy over the Palestinian territories. The State of Israel exists, for better or worse, and the people of Israel are human beings deserving respect and peace. We must all learn to live with that, especially the Arab peoples. However, that does not give the Israelis the right to occupy conquered territories for decades, and oppress the people that live therein. The Palestinians are people too, deserving respect and peace, and so for better or worse, Christian justice mandates that it is time to create a sovereign and autonomous Palestinian State alongside Israel.