Given this upheaval and the tragedy it represents, one would expect followers of Christ of whatever theological persuasion to address the Palestinian plight at some length. Yet relatively little is said about the human cost of this nation-building exercise in dispensationalist Christian Zionist literature. When Palestinians are mentioned at all it is primarily to dismiss their claims to the land. By Christian Zionist reckoning God's decision to return the land to the Jewish people trumps any Palestinian desire to live in the land of their birth, making moot any protests to the contrary.
 In a Bible study guide to the book of Daniel, prepared for the Radio Bible Class World-wide Gospel Broadcast audience in 1947, the RBC founder, Dr. M.R. DeHaan, goes so far as to suggest that Palestinian Arabs, many of whose families had been resident in the land for centuries, had no right to be there at all:
. . . the Balfour declaration gave Britain the mandate over the entire land of Palestine, the Holy Land. Here we believe was the golden opportunity. She had it in her power and her right to clear the land of its unlawful possessors [my emphasis] and make it exclusively the homeland for God's scattered people.
 Not all Christian Zionists would go this far (particularly those who are uncomfortable with dispensationalist theology). But most in one way or another disregard Palestinian land claims as they shift blame for whatever conflict has ensued to stubborn and unwarranted Arab refusal to relinquish their claims to the land.
 The most common Christian Zionist perspective on this reflects a statement made in 1946 by the prominent mainline Protestant theologian, Reinhold Niehbuhr, to the Anglo American Committee of Inquiry which was debating the issue of whether or not America should support the establishment of a Jewish state. Niehbuhr himself was not a Christian Zionist. His was a compassionate response to the horrors of the holocaust which had just become widely known. But his words would lend weight to the less compassionate response of Christian Zionists to Palestinian land claims:
The fact that the Arabs have a vast hinterland in the Middle East, and the fact that the Jews have nowhere else to go (due largely to the fact that western countries including the United States restricted Jewish immigration during and after WW II - author's note) establishes the relative justice of their claims and of their cause . . . Arab sovereignty over a portion of the debated territory must undoubtedly be sacrificed for the sake of establishing a world Jewish homeland.
 What Niehbuhr suggests here is that the onus for solving the land conflict lies with the Palestinian Arabs. They have a "vast hinterland in the Middle East" where they can easily resettle, it being a small matter for them to leave the land of their birth. Christian Zionists are quick to point out in this regard that there was no unique Palestinian identity or nation before Israel came into existence. The slogan much quoted in Zionism's pioneering days -- "A land without a people for a people without a land" -- underscores the fact that this has also been a longstanding Israeli contention.
 The following statement by Dr. James Hutchens, president of Christians for Israel, one of several hundred Christian Zionist organizations propagating their perspectives on the web, is typical of this point of view. What is notable here is not only his denial of any valid Palestinian identity, but the contempt he shows for Palestinians and Arabs in general, which is a disturbing trait of the more extremist Christian Zionist literature. Note too his apparent ignorance of a small yet significant Christian presence within the Palestinian community:
First let us clarify who the "Palestinians" really are. The notion of a distinct "Palestinian people" with a language, culture and religion of its own, is a creation of Yasser Arafat and nurtured by the surrounding Arab nations after their ignominious defeat in the 1967 war with Israel. The so called "Palestinian" people are, in reality, Arabs whose mother tongue is Arabic, whose religion is Islam, and whose culture is shared by most of the 22 surrounding Arab countries. There simply is no distinct Palestinian entity.
 There is a small kernel of truth here. The land that became Israel/Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire prior to World War I. After the war the victorious European states dismantled the empire, carving out of it the nation states of Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan/ Palestine.
 Literally speaking, then, it is true to say that there was no Palestinian state before the British mandate in the same sense that there was a German, or French or American state. What isn't true is the assertion that Palestinian identity is an artificially created phenomenon forged in a devious way to make a political point. People who live, as the Palestinians have, in one location for centuries or even decades develop an identity which is integrally attached to the land. Ask any Iowa farmer whose family has tilled the same ground for three or four generations how important that land is to his or her sense of identity and you will soon see the fallacy of the Christian Zionist argument. Whether or not there was a nation called Palestine is less important than the fact that this was the place they had called "home" for hundreds, in some cases thousands, of years.
 There have always been those within the Jewish community who have challenged this cavalier dismissal of Palestinian claims to the land. It remains an open topic of debate within Israeli society today. One of the founders of the World Jewish Congress and long time president of the World Zionist Organization, Dr. Nahum Goldman, puts the dissenting opinion this way:
One of the great oversights of Zionism is that when the Jewish homeland in Palestine was founded, sufficient attention was not paid to relations with the Arabs. Of course, there were always a few Zionist speakers and thinkers who stressed them . . . Unfortunately these convictions remained in the realm of theory and were not carried over, in any great extent, into actual Zionist practice. Even Theodore Herzl's brilliantly simple formulation of the Jewish question as basically a transportation problem of "moving people without a home into a land without a people" is tinged with disquieting blindness to the Arab claim to Palestine. Palestine was not a land without a people even in Herzl's time; it was inhabited by hundreds of thousands of Arabs who, in the course of events, would sooner or later have achieved independent statehood, either alone or as a unit with a larger Arab context."
 Jews themselves have recognized the moral dilemma created by two peoples laying claim to one land. Unfortunately this dilemma is rarely acknowledged by Christian Zionists, who continue to use Herzl's "simple formulation" or its derivations to deny the legitimacy of Palestinian identity and claims.
A "Maximalist" Perspective
 What makes this even more problematic and hurtful from a Palestinian perspective, particularly to Christian Palestinians who expect a more sympathetic response from fellow Christians, is that Christian Zionists for the most part project a "maximalist" stance on the issue of land ownership. Maximalists insist that the boundaries of the Jewish state should conform to a biblical map which includes not only the present state of Israel, but the whole of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip as well, territories they call "Judea and Samaria." As the late Moral Majority co- founder and director of the Christian Zionist Religious Roundtable, the Rev. Ed McAteer, said on a 2002 60 Minutes segment: "Every grain of sand, between the Dead Sea, the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea belongs to the Jews"
 In this, Christian Zionists have adopted what is considered even by many Israelis to be the most extreme and problematical position vis-à-vis the occupation - that of the militant settler movement. The militant settler movement draws its membership largely from fundamentalist Orthodox Jews who link the coming of the Messiah (not Jesus, but a messiah yet to be revealed) to the establishment and expansion of the Jewish state. They, like Christian Zionists, believe that God gave all of the land to the Jews as an eternal possession, which means that they have the right to settle anywhere they choose, no matter what the UN or the United States or even their own government says. If it means forcibly removing Palestinians from lands they and their families have cultivated for generations, so be it. It's all theirs. To say otherwise is to argue with God.
 "The Jews are authorized by the living God and creator of the universe as a legitimate, eternal people with unalienable rights to the entire Land of Israel," says Ian Lustick, characterizing their views. "The Palestinians have absolutely no legitimate claim to nationhood or to any part of the country."
 That this is also the viewpoint of dispensationally driven Christian Zionists is apparent in a statement issued as the official proclamation of the "Fourth International Christian Congress on Biblical Zionism," held in Jerusalem in February, 2001, which brought together a wide representation of Christian Zionist spokespersons. Here are some excerpts:
Biblical Zionism is the firm belief that God chose the Jewish people and bequeathed to them as an everlasting possession the Land of Canaan. Christians must take courageous action to support the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel in all its parts . . . [my emphasis]
The Bible puts its full weight behind the Return of the Jewish exiles to Eretz Israel. Therefore Christians have no biblical grounds upon which to base support for Palestinian nationalism.
 At least one Christian Zionist organization unabashedly supports the settler movement. Christian Friends of Israeli Communities recruits American churches to "adopt" a settlement as a way of expressing support for settler Jews whom they describe as brave pioneers claiming land that is theirs by divine decree:
Judea and Samaria is the Biblical name for the center of the Holy Land also called the Mountains of Israel. The media refers to this area as the "West Bank." The residents of these areas, otherwise known as settlers, are fulfilling prophesy and pointing the way for the rest of the Jewish people back to their roots. . . The Biblical region of Judea and Samaria was given to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendents, forever, 4000 years ago. [my emphasis]
 This hard-core position has put Christian Zionists on a collision course not only with "liberals," but also more recently with fellow political conservatives in Israel and America. The "Roadmap to Peace," proposed by the so-called Quartet of nations with strong endorsement by the Bush administration, is opposed by Christian Zionists. So are any of the tentative moves which the Israeli government makes from time to time towards territorial compromise including relinquishing control of the Gaza Strip which was strongly opposed by Christian Zionists.
 In an astonishing meeting held in Jerusalem several years back, one-time Republican presidential hopeful and Christian TV talk show host, Pat Robertson, showed how extreme Christian Zionists can be in asserting their convictions on this issue. Robertson used the occasion to urge a Jewish audience to put pressure on their government not make any territorial compromises with the Palestinians, as to do so would be to set themselves in opposition to God's will for their country:
Ladies and gentlemen, make no mistake - the entire world is being convulsed by a religious struggle. The fight is not about money or territory; it is not about poverty versus wealth; it is not about ancient customs versus modernity. No - the struggle is whether Hubal, the Moon God of Mecca, known as Allah, is supreme, or whether the Judeo-Christian Jehovah God of the Bible is Supreme.
If God's chosen people turn over to Allah control of their most sacred sites - if they surrender to Muslim vandals the tombs of Rachel, of Joseph, of the Patriarchs, of the ancient prophets - if they believe their claim to the Holy Land only comes from Lord Balfour of England and the ever fickle United Nations rather than the promises of Almighty God - then in that event Islam will have won the battle. Throughout the Muslim world the message will go forth: "Allah is greater than Jehovah. The promises of Jehovah to the Jews are meaningless. We can now, in the name of Allah, move to crush the Jews and drive them out of the land that belongs to Allah."
 This ethical blind spot underscores just one of many dilemmas posed by a dispensationalist perspective on biblical truth when it gets translated into political action. The theology itself needs to be challenged, as Jerusalem-based Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan underscores in declaring Christian Zionism to be a "Christian heresy".
 What is particularly questionable is what dispensationalist Christian Zionists claim about God's purposes vis-a-vis the modern state of Israel. What these Christian Zionists say is that Herzl's vision for a Jewish state in Palestine -- though tragically realized through a succession of wars which led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Arab Christians and Muslims -- this state, created in this way, with these consequences, was and is at the center of God's redemptive purposes. One needs to ask in this respect whether or not Jesus, whom we testify to be the full revelation of God's salvific purposes, confirms this; or for that matter Paul or the other New Testament writers whose inspired teachings we believe to be an extension of the revelation of God's purpose in Christ. This is the primary question we must ask when we examine the theological basis for dispensational Christian Zionism. Scripture itself demands that we do so:
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the world. He is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful Word. (Hebrews 1:1-3)
Yes, in bringing physical Israel back home, God has been raising up an announcement, a banner to the nations -- one they are unable to ignore no matter how unpopular it is -- confronting the world with the reality of God's eternal existence; His undiminished sovereignty; and His unlimited might and power.
The Witness of Christ
 Jesus ministered in a time much like our own time, when that which divides people is more pronounced than that which brings them together. There were at that time divisions within the Jewish community between Pharisees and Sadducees, between Zealots and those who lived a monastic existence in the desert. There were even stronger divisions between Jews and everyone else. They had nothing to do with Samaritans. Gentiles were "unclean." And most among them hated the Romans.
He is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups [Jews and Gentiles] into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us … through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. (Eph. 2: 14)
So then you [Gentiles] are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord... (Eph. 3:19-21)
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross . . . (Colossians 1:19-20 [my emphasis])
All of these [Abraham and those of his descendents who remained faithful to God's calling] died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11: 13-16,
 This, in the end, is where Christian Zionist teaching deviates most noticeably from the core message of the Gospel. Jesus, picking up seminal themes from the Hebrew scriptures, preached and lived a message of reconciliation: reconciliation between God and his rebellious human family and reconciliation between the diverse members within that family. In situations of great conflict, such as we are witnessing in Israel/Palestine, we, as God's people, must put ourselves in a position to do our best to encourage reconciliation. We must pray, teach and work for a peace that reflects God's overriding concern for justice. This is the most important prophetic word for Israel and the Palestinians, just as it is for anyone in any land: God desires justice. To do the work of God in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories today is to stand with those who are seeking justice and working for reconciliation. The Bible in its entirety leaves no room for doubt on this matter: "For thus says the Lord: maintain justice and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed" (Isaiah 56: 1).
 see http://www.un.org/Depts/dpa/qpalnew/glossarycollapsible.htm.
 Stephen Sizer, August 31, 1998, Christian Zionism: Its History, Theology, and Politics, Chapter 4: John Nelson Darby. Available at http://www.christchurch-virginiawater.co.uk/articles/darby1.html (12/13/03) , p. 1.
Often attributed to either Theodor Herzl, the organizing genius behind the Zionist movement, or the English writer and humorist, Israel Zangwill, the phrase is actually a variation on a similar slogan coined by the 19th century Christian Zionist and philanthropist, Lord Shaftesbury. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel_Zangwill).
Dr. James M. Hutchens, What About the Palestinians? Available at http://www.crossmap.net/design/tjci/tjci/articles/whatabout.htm (12/21/2003).
Nahum Goldmann quoted in Wolterstorff, Until Justice & Peace Embrace, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1983), 117.
Bob Simon, June 8, 2003, Zion's Christian Soldiers. Available at http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/10/03/60minutes/main524268.shtml (12/13/2003).
Available at http://www.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/363_Transp/Orthodoxy/Gush.html (12/21/03).
Ian Lustick, May 1998. For the Land and the Lord: Jewish Fundamentalish in Israel. Available at
February 22, 2001. Proclamation of the Fourth International Christian Congress on Biblical Zionism. Available at http://christianactionforisrael.org/4thcongress3_pf.html (12/13/03).
Christian Friends of Iraeli Communities. What Are Israeli Communities? Available at http://cfoic.com/pages.jsp?pageID=6 (12/21/03).
"Younan: Christian Zionism is Heresy" in The Lutheran , March, 2003.
Volume 7, Issue 5