Could the Ten Commandments offer a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Gerry ChidiacThe retaliatory strike on Gaza – in response to the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7 – was a central point of focus for many Jews around the world as they celebrated the Passover Seder recently. One of the largest gatherings was in New York City, where Jewish Canadian writer Naomi Klein stated:

“I’ve been thinking about Moses and his rage when he came down from the mount to find the Israelites worshipping a golden calf ….. Too many of our people are worshipping a false idol once again. They are enraptured by it. They are drunk on it. They are profaned by it. And that false idol is called Zionism.”

I am not a Jew; I am a Middle Eastern Christian, and I was deeply moved by Klein’s powerful words. We often forget that Christianity and Islam are both offshoots of Judaism and that we share many of the same spiritual teachings, including the story of Moses, lessons about false idols, and the Ten Commandments.

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As Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire, teachings from figures like Jesus, Moses, and Abraham clashed with the interests of those in power. Over time, heretical beliefs such as racial superiority and manifest destiny became normalized. White Europeans justified atrocities like slavery and genocide as divine will, echoing themes found in Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” where they deemed it their right to “exterminate all the brutes” and seize land from indigenous peoples.

Klein further stated in her discourse that “Zionism  … has led far too many of our own people down a deeply immoral path that now has them justifying the shredding of core commandments – Thou shall not kill. Thou shall not steal. Thou shall not covet.”

But aren’t all those sins the very essence of manifest destiny? How is it possible to reconcile the core message of Jesus to “love one’s neighbour” with “exterminate all the brutes”? I am just as puzzled by the actions of those who identify as Christians as Klein is by the actions of those who identify as Jews.

The latest manifestation of manifest destiny is Christian Zionism, which not only aims to displace the indigenous population of a region but also advocates for the ethnic cleansing of Jews from other areas, relocating them to historic Israel/Palestine. Some followers even advocate for the eradication of much of the Jewish and non-Jewish populace in the region, believing it aligns with Jesus’ wishes and will lead to their own heavenly rapture. The failure to recognize this as antisemitism is perplexing.

The absurdity of the contradictions we’ve devised to justify violating the most sacred teachings of the Abrahamic religions inevitably rises to the surface, reflecting our hypocrisy back to us.

In Klein’s most recent book Doppelganger she examines the reflection of Western colonialism in Nazism. While there were elements of the Holocaust that were unique in practice, it was in principle the same as all other genocides, “What was new,” Klein states, “it was now fellow Europeans who were being cast as the inferior race.”

Emory University in Atlanta has one of the most highly regarded Holocaust Education programs in the world. I watched in horror as brutes in police uniforms not only hauled away Noëlle McAfee, the Chair of the Philosophy Department but threw Economics professor Caroline Fohlin to the ground, smashed her head on the concrete, handcuffed and arrested her. The “crime” was daring to verbally object to how police treated students in her university who were protesting what they allege is a genocide in Gaza.

It would appear that, as Malcolm X infamously stated, “The chickens are coming home to roost.”

Those of us who are believers recognize that God gave us the Ten Commandments for times such as these. We need to come to our senses and begin to follow them.

Gerry Chidiac specializes in languages and genocide studies and works with at-risk students. He is the recipient of an award from the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre for excellence in teaching about the Holocaust.

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