IN A JUNE 1990 report entitled "Sliding towards the Palestinian cause", the Washington-based Institute on Religion and Democracy wrote:
"The Spring of 1990 saw a new emphasis by churches across the theological and political spectrum on the Middle East. Nearly complete is a major shift in the ecumenical and Catholic churches - from what one rabbi called the post-Holocaust 'ecumenical deal' with the Jewish community, which led to unqualified support for Israel, to favourable views of Arab states and Palestinian independence".
Eight years on, that shift has solidified. Today there is an outspoken Christian voice fully endorsing the establishment of a Palestinian state on the land of Israel, with Jerusalem as capital.
Support of the Palestinian cause has become a rallying point, uniting members of numerous Christian denominations in opposition to the vital and legitimate interests of the State of Israel, and against the beliefs of many of their own Christian members concerning the Jewish people.
Concerted efforts by various churches and organisations have eroded the sympathy and support Israel enjoyed from Christians in the years between the end of World War II and the Six Day War. These same actions - which have included altering scriptural and liturgical references to Israel - have strengthened the pro-Israel beliefs of Christians who hold that the Bible should be taken at its literal word.
The question of Israel has divided the church world-wide.
The pro-Palestine Christians reject a literal interpretation of the Bible, at least insofar as it concerns the restoration of the Jews to their land and their God. Their beliefs include: the equation of the Muslim Allah with the biblical Lord God of Hosts, the replacement of Israel as God's chosen people with the Church, varying degrees of subscription to liberation theology, and the preaching of a social gospel with its central tenet the defense of human rights.
Some of the more outrageous proclamations from members of this camp have been that Jesus was a Palestinian Arab, that the 12 disciples were Arabs, and that today's Arab Christians can trace their ancestry - as well as their historic right to the land of Israel - back to the earliest days of Christianity.
The strategic value of this pro-Palestine trend in Christendom has not been lost on the Muslim world, which has learned to use Christians to further its cause. Islam's adherents are well aware that Christians proselytise Muslims and believe that there is no salvation for the non-believers who do not accept Jesus as the Messiah. These Christian doctrines are in strong contradiction to the Muslim Quran; they oppose the religious beliefs of the Muslim Arabs. Yet in spite of this theological conflict, Muslim Arabs are able to brush aside the religious differences in order to enlist Christian support to help them undermine the State of Israel.
For its part, the church's buttressing of the Islamic agenda is made possible by its embrace of liberation theology and the so-called 'social gospel'. In the case of the PLO - even though the religious affiliation of the overwhelming majority of its leaders and constituents is Muslim, the terrorist organisation has obtained Christian support by asserting that its wish is to establish a nationalist democratic state for its people, whose human rights - it insists - are being trampled on by Israel.
In fact, in response to a recent wave of reports about PA persecution of Arab converts to Christianity, the PA minister for information affirmed that "the Palestinian people are also governed by shari'a Law ..." The minister maintained that death was the prescribed penalty for Muslim converts, and implied that this was the fate such Arabs could expect under Yasser Arafat's rule (see page 3).
In its August 1997 report, "The global war on Christians", the Reader's Digest quoted expert opinion which said that Islam's shari'a laws "are used to invoke discrimination, repression and outright persecution against Christians".
And still Christian willingness to stand alongside Muslim leaders driven by anti-Israel hatred remains - undaunted by the history of Christian suffering under Islam; despite recent well-publicised reports of on-going, wide-spread persecution of Christians in Arab states; despite the PLO's horrific destruction of the Christian community in Lebanon; and despite regular reports of violence against Christians in the PA-controlled parts of Israel by Yasser Arafat's Palestinian "police".
States a fact sheet published by the International Forum for a United Jerusalem:
"Christian ears have not yet become accustomed to Arafat's latest tune 'until the Palestinian flag is hoisted over all the walls, minarets and churches of Jerusalem' This follows another slogan: 'First the Saturday people - then the Sunday people'."
In light of the history of Christian-Jewish relations down the centuries, and the fact that most anti-Semitism for the last 2000 years, when it was not perpetrated by different churches, was certainly sanctioned by them, this - tragically large scale - Christian support for regathered Israel's enemies is nothing new, nor surprising.
Certainly, as far as many Jews are concerned, there is little difference between these late 20th century Christians and those who have gone before.
To all Christianty's shame, they are simply maintaining an age-old Christian tradition.