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Preview: Humanity, Nuance, and Justice for Palestine

Preview: Humanity, Nuance, and Justice for Palestine

In November’s bonus episode, Jonathan and Sy talked about the conflict in Israel and Palestine. They discussed:

-         how they both approach thinking about the occupation as people leaving colonized faith

-        The difference between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism

-        How to engage media and advocacy on this subject in an emotionally healthy way,

And a lot more! This is a transcript of a preview of the episode. You can hear the preview here.

Content warning for brief descriptions of wartime violence, including against children.



[An acoustic guitar softly plays six notes, the first three ascending and the last three descending — F#, B, F#, E, D#, B — with a keyboard pad playing the note B in the background. Both fade out as Jonathan Walton says “This is a KTF Press podcast.”]

Sy Hoekstra: Hey everybody, this is Sy. I’m just here to introduce this preview to our bonus episode, the one that we released in November about Israel and Palestine and everything that’s happening there. You’re gonna get kind of a snippet of it, probably about 10 or 12 minutes or so of a much longer episode. We release these bonus episodes every month. This was our November episode. Our December episode on Christmas is dropping on Friday.

If you want to become a paid subscriber and get these episodes in your podcast player or your inbox every month, go to KTFPress.com, sign up as a paid subscriber. You can always get a free month at the beginning of your subscription by going to KTFPress.com/freemonth. I think you can remember that: KTFPress.com/freemonth for a free month.

If you become a paid subscriber, you get the bonus episodes as they come out. You get the whole archive. You can get them all in a nice little feed that goes in your podcast player. And you get our newsletter that comes out every week with highlights from Jonathan and I—highlights from media on things that we think will be helpful in your discipleship and political education, and why we think that. All of it, of course, aimed at helping us leave colonized faith for the kingdom of God. So if you want to get access to all of that, and support everything that we do at KTF Press, please, again, KTFPress.com, become a paid subscriber.

Thank you so much! Without further ado, here is the clip from the episode on Israel and Palestine.

[the intro piano music from “Citizens” by Jon Guerra plays briefly and then fades out.]

Understanding Israel’s origin and today’s violence

Sy Hoekstra: Let's just start with where we're coming from when we talk about this with Israel and Palestine. Where we start from, what's our starting point and how do we think about the issues? Jonathan, do you want to…? You've already like intimated a little bit about what you think, but why don't you give us a little more?

Jonathan Walton: Yeah. I mean, I think the starting point for me, I immediately go to the historical context of how and why Israel came to be, and then how and—the State of Israel came to be in 1948—and the United States’ and the West’s role in that. I dive there immediately just so that I can step out of trying to throw on Old Covenant language, try to graft myself onto some larger cosmic story from God, and just say, “No, that actually wasn't it.” Let me resist that temptation. Because it is so easy to want to be right when we're angry, upset, frustrated, sad, grieving, and an attack like what Hamas did on October 7th can lead to that. I think the big picture is where I start and where I end is just mothers holding their dying children. Those two images for me are really, really, really, really difficult to hold on to.

Sy Hoekstra: And even by the way, you mentioned the ICU before, I think.

Jonathan Walton: Yeah.

Sy Hoekstra: Just in case people don't know, like a day or two ago, the hospital that was bombed toward the beginning of the fighting was bombed again and the power went out.

Jonathan Walton: Right.

Sy Hoekstra: So the incubators in the ICU were not working and a few dozen children, babies died as a result [correction: the hospital could not provide incubators for about 36 premature babies after the bombing. Five died as a direct consequence. A third of all babies at the hospital were critically ill when the hospital was finally evacuated, and all had serious infections. We at KTF do not know Their ultimate fate at the moment].

Jonathan Walton: Right. And I mean, yeah, that just doesn't have to, it just doesn't have to happen. It just doesn't have to happen. And if you follow me on Instagram, I've tried to post… [choking up]

Sy Hoekstra: Take your time.

Jonathan Walton: …the same photo every day. There's a short video of a woman just holding her kid, and they put… like all of the remains are just in bags. White bags. And that I think… I don't post other videos because I think they're too… Just, I mean, I don't want people to be… Like, even some things are too unsettling for me, and I don't think Instagram is helpful and how they just bombard people with images to keep them on algorithm. But this this particular video, I do share because I think it speaks to the lack of humanity and the humanity… the lack of humanity of what's happening to them and the humanity of what is happening when you lose a child. And it doesn't have to be that way. It just doesn't.

Sy Hoekstra: Yeah. Thanks.

Jonathan Walton: Yeah.

Sy Hoekstra: I think I start at a similar place. The beginning point for me is 1948. The context for everything that is happening is the fact that 750,000 Palestinians were forced off of their land. And since then, in order to maintain, they were forced off their land in order to create space for settlers to come in and create this state, and then have decades of basically violence to maintain that situation. And I think like Jonathan said, if there's a settler situation like that, at no point in history have you ever had hundreds of thousands of people kicked off their land and forced into another place and forced to live as second class citizens under a regime that is fundamentally not built for them and not had violence as a response.

Which is not the same as me saying I don't hold Hamas responsible for what they've done. It just means if you're going to have a state like Israel, there's going to be a violent response every single time. And you're going to have to have continuous escalations of violence in order to maintain a situation like that, because you kicked hundreds of thousands of people off their land. And if you don't start from that point and say, how do we go back and do something about that fundamental problem that founding the State of Israel created, you're never going to solve anything, right? There's going to be no… if the only discussion is, “We're here, all the international community says we deserve to be here, the Bible says we deserve to be here, this is our land, nobody else matters,” then you're never going to stop having violence.

And by the way, Palestinians live in a lot of different places, they don't just live in Palestine. You're never going to stop having Palestinians, you’re never going to stop having the idea of Palestine. A huge percentage of Jordan’s population is Palestinians. There are Palestinians in Egypt. There are Palestinians all over the world, it's not going away. And any other framing is just not going to get you to any sort of solution that deals with anything real. For me, like the one state, two state—I don't know the details. I'm just saying you're going to have to address the fact that all these people's land was taken, and they were forced off of it, and there's been an enormous amount of violence and discrimination in order to maintain that situation, and if you don't, this attack from Hamas will not be the last.

It's the same thing, 9/11 didn't happen in a vacuum either, right? That happened… again, I hold the people who did it responsible for their actions, but it's also not surprising. That it happened at all is not surprising.

America is the colonizer in Israel

The other point I wanted to make is that just like, people call it a colonizing project in Israel, and people are confused a lot of times by that framing of it. But it's not as confusing when you understand how invested the West is in it. Like effectively we are the colonizing country.

Jonathan Walton: Yep.

Sy Hoekstra: Like the United States and Britain and France to a certain degree, we have all had a hand in this because we want an ally in the region. It is about our foreign policy interests. That's why Israel was created in the first place.

That's the only reason they had the political will to do it in the first place, and that's the only reason it continues to exist. Because another reality of the situation is Israel is surrounded by people who would destroy it if it wasn't being protected by bigger countries like us. And they're there because we want them to be there and because they serve our interests in a lot of ways, our foreign policy interests.

American Hypocrisy about indigenous people replicated in Israel

And I think part of the reason that we don't see it this way, or that Americans especially are primed not to see it this way, is because of the kind of racist colonialist way that we see our own country.

Jonathan Walton: Yes.

Sy Hoekstra: Right? Like we do not… So many Americans, so many Christians in particular—talk about a concrete example of colonized faith, of theology that supports colonization—we talk about American exceptionalism and how we've been blessed by God and how we've accomplished all these great things, and nothing about all the people that were displaced and killed and enslaved and exploited to get to where we are. Like we are so used to that, just celebrating America and not thinking about any of the things that happened as a result. I was just watching something with Rashid Khalidi [discussion with Professor Kahlidi begins at about 26”40 in the linked video] who's a Palestinian-American historian, and he was just like “A Native American reservation, Palestine, the places where Black people were forced to live in South Africa in apartheid; It's all the same thing.”

You're just forcing people to live somewhere so that your colonialist project can stand. And the point is that we're used to talking about self-determination and self-governance. Like us in the United States, we say, “We fought against Britain because we had the inalienable right to govern ourselves,” with no thought to the fact that we were denying the right to govern themselves to a bunch of other people.

Jonathan Walton: Yes. Absolutely.

Sy Hoekstra: [laughs] That is a fundamental part of how America thinks of itself, that kind of doublespeak [laughs].

Jonathan Walton: Yes.

Sy Hoekstra: Self-determination for us, but not for the people that we don't want to give it to. So it's not really a surprise that we have no issue saying, “Oh yeah, this state Israel, has self-determination, and we're going to make sure that they continue to have that” with no regard for all the self-determination that they are denying to the people within their borders.

Jonathan Walton: Yes. I mean, embedded in our political reality in the United States and all of the economic and social tentacles downstream of that is radical hypocrisy.

Sy Hoekstra: Yeah.

Jonathan Walton: And are socially accepted. Morally, I'm using my big, huge finger quotes, morally justifiable hypocrisy.

American foreign policy interests are not Jesus’ priorities

Oh, and something that I wish Christians understood, which is why I think I enter back in where like where I come into it because I try to stay in a lane to stay grounded, is that like the economic and political and militaristic interests of the United States are not how Jesus runs foreign policy. The idea that the, let's say, the Roman government fits so beautifully with Jesus' desire for the beloved community makes absolutely, positively no sense. And so if you are a follower of Jesus listening to this podcast and you're thinking to yourself, “We should wholeheartedly put just a platform where the kingdom of God is the same as a platform of a political party,” then we are radically out of step with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the apostles and anything before or after that we are sitting in with in Scripture, which is missing it completely.

Because Jesus says, “We will be known by the fruit that we bear,” and the fruit of the United States, just like Sy was saying, when Joe Biden stood up in Congress in 1986 and said, as he was fighting for $3 billion worth of funding to go to Israel, he said, “This is the best $3 billion investment we can make, because if Israel didn't exist, we would have to make it exist to secure our interests in the region.”

Sy Hoekstra: That is a clip available on YouTube if you want to go watch it.


Jonathan Walton: Yeah.

We’re not using Revelation as a lens to interpret today’s events

Sy Hoekstra: I should also say or we should also note, this is implicitly obvious, but we do not come at this from a position of like interpreting the dream in the book of Revelation to figure out who needs to own Israel and when in order to bring about the apocalypse [laughs], or anything like that.

Jonathan Walton: Oh Lord… [laughs]

Sy Hoekstra: I’m laughing as I say it because it is funny, but you have to note it because that is a dominant view in American Christianity.

Jonathan Walton: Yes.

Sy Hoekstra: It's not a dominant view in the church in any way, like the global church, but it's the dominant view here. And again, it's not surprising to me that it is a dominant view here, because it is a view that fits very nicely with American foreign policy.

There is no conspiracy of Jewish people, just American colonialism

Jonathan Walton: Yes. I will also say, and this is not in our notes, but we don't come at this also coming at it thinking that this is some… when we are noting the interests of the United States and Western interests in foreign policy to set this up, we are not then endorsing some grand conspiracy theory about Jewish people.

Sy Hoekstra: Oh, yeah, that's a good point to make. We're actually doing the opposite of that.

Jonathan Walton: Yeah.

Sy Hoekstra: We're saying, unfortunately, like sadly, what I'm saying is, I think the Jewish state and the global Jewish people have been,

Jonathan Walton: Apro—

Sy Hoekstra: like their really genuine cause has been used, has been appropriated as you were about to say.

Jonathan Walton: right.

Sy Hoekstra: They’re pawns in the schemes of America's foreign policy interests. I think that's what it comes down to. By the way, a lot of other... this is not just Israel. Like a lot of times Hamas is a pawn of Iran or Russia. Like a lot of times this is… the Middle East and all these fights, we’ll talk about this more, a lot of people are being used for other people's interests.

That is generally what is happening in so many conflicts in the Middle East, like they are proxy wars for other people and other people's interests.

[the intro piano music from “Citizens” by Jon Guerra plays briefly and then fades out.]

Sy Hoekstra: Thank you so much for listening. Again, KTFPress.com to become a paid subscriber. Get access to this whole episode and all the bonus episodes. Get our newsletter, and get a free month at the beginning of your subscription if you go to KTFPress.com/freemonth.

Thank you again so much for listening. Hopefully we’ll see you on Friday for the December bonus episode. If not, we hope you all have a very merry Christmas.

[The song “Citizens” by Jon Guerra fades in. Lyrics: I need to know there is justice/ That it will roll in abundance/ And that you’re building a city/ Where we arrive as immigrants/ And you call us citizens/ And you welcome us as children home.” The song fades out.]

Sy Hoekstra: We’re going, yeah?

Jonathan Walton: [singing] We are recording now. We are recording now. Yes.

Sy Hoekstra: Okay

Jonathan Walton: Okay [clears throat].

Sy Hoekstra: [inhales for a long time, brrrrs loudly sounding like he’s shaking his head, coughs, clears his throat, kind of growls, and speaks in a loud, hoarse voice]. Ready to go.

Jonathan Walton: [laughs].

Sy Hoekstra: Everyone, I’m normal [laughter]. I make normal noises and there's no need for concern.

KTF Press
Shake the Dust
Seeking Jesus, confronting injustice–Shake the Dust features candid interviews and informed discussions that guide us as we resist the idols of America.