Of course, an academic focus in recent years on the Jewish roots of the Church, 1st century Jewish-Christian hermeneutics, and the religious and cultural milieu of New Testament Christianity all demonstrate unequivocally the thoroughly Jewish origin and nature of early Christianity and how de-Judaising Christianity is pure folly. Neither is focusing on the Jewish roots of the faith the exclusive domain of nonsupersessionism, as important contributions in this field by, for example, N.T. Wright demonstrate. So recognising, appreciating and exploring the Jewish roots of Christianity does not necessarily translate into holding a nonsupersessionist view.
At this stage I think it might be helpful to step back for a moment and clarify some of the terminology which is bandied about, which unfortunately is not helped by how some of the new supersessionist authors present Christian Zionism (CZ) as a monolithic and extremist bloc. I suppose, at its most basic, we could say that just as CZ champions the Jewish people and is generally sympathetic to the modern State of Israel, so Christian Palestinianism (CP) champions the Arab people and supports the creation of a Palestinian state. Beyond this, the current polarised debate makes it is difficult to define either term more satisfactorily without being polemical or pejorative. But perhaps the way around this impasse is to define CP in exactly the same manner as Christian Palestinianists define CZ (a kind of mirror image, if you will). Thus just as some CPs define CZs as extremists, racists, condoning Israeli state terrorism and repudiating the Gospel, conversely extremist CPs are similarly anti-Semitic, turn a blind eye to Islamic terrorism and are pro-Islam. Alternatively, while some CZs support Israel but struggle with aspects of Israeli policy, likewise some CPs may support the Arab people but struggle with aspects of Hamas and Fatah. If you think about it this twin system of defining CP and CZ works rather well, allowing for moderate and extreme expressions on both sides. At the vey least it will certainly help to challenge the stereotype of CZ as somehow monolithic and extremist (the proviso being, of course, that there are also moderate expressions of CP).
To confuse the issue further, at this stage we should also mention Christian anti-Zionism. Whereas CP is defined by who it sides with (the Palestinians), Christian anti-Zionism, as the name suggests, is defined first and foremost by what it opposes. Thus theoretically Christian anti-Zionism need not imply wholesale, uncritical (or indeed any) support for the Palestinians, Palestinian Authority or a Palestinian state. Primarily Christian anti-Zionism is concerned with theologically challenging Christian Zionism. Thus the theological shift is away from either peoples in the Middle East (Arabs and Jews) to a theological debate and challenging the views of a segment of Christians within the wider church.
At the risk of complicating the matter yet further, it is also essential to differentiate between Christian Palestinianism and Palestinian Christianity. Like Christian Zionism, the former represents a bloc within wider Christianity which support and champions one of the peoples of the Middle East, whereas Palestinian Christianity represents an exclusively Arab expression of Christianity among the Palestinian people. Hence, Palestinian Christianity consists of Palestinian Anglicans, Baptists, Charismatics, Orthodox, Catholic, and so on, some of which are Evangelicals, others not.
In any debate exploring a complex issues, such as the Middle East conflict, it is essential not to generalise and oversimplify, always seeking to bring sophistication and nuance to the issue. This is why carefully defining terminology represents such an essential first step in any academic treatment of an issue. Thus it is important to recognise the technical and theoretical differences between Christian Palestinianism, Christian anti-Zionism and Palestinian Christianity. Utilising this terminology begins to help one see the different agendas and approaches of all three camps, allowing one to craft a separate and tailored response to each.
Unfortunately, and with important exceptions aside (for example, it is clearly the case that many grassroots Evangelical Palestinian Christians reject a version of Palestinian liberation theology espoused by their leaders), today it is not always easy to differentiate between Christian Palestinianism, Christian anti-Zionism and Palestinian Christianity. And going back to where I began this post, one of the important ways in which all three camps seem to be so similar is the way in which the Jewish roots of Christianity are relegated or ditched completely. Consider when was the last time you heard a well-known representative of either camp express a positive view of the Jewish roots of Christianity in a book, journal article, talk or blog post? Or how often is the Old Testament downplayed by church leaders in Palestinian Christian circles? One well-known minister of a historic Protestant denomination explained to me recently how, while attending several conferences with various Palestinian Christian leaders, they barely acknowledged the Old Testament. It is not surprising, then, that Melnick conflates all three definitions when he writes...
Christian Palestinianism is well on its way to de-judaize Jesus – a job that the gentile branch of Christianity generously contributed to, out of ignorance or pure hatred of the Jews over the centuries. CP will also continue to invalidate much of the Jewish Scriptures as history gets re-written and Jewish references get replaced to accommodate the “Islamization” of the Bible.At a time when those Christians who believe God retains a plan and purpose for the Jewish people (including those who believe He has restored them to the land) are increasingly eschewing the extremes of Christian Zionism and seek to be more nuanced in their theological and political treatment of the issues, it is equally fitting and appropriate for our Christian brothers on the other side of the debate to challenge the relegation of the Old Testament and the Jewish roots, reprimanding and resisting any form of modern day Marcionism. The Jewish roots of the Christian faith is a given, a fact of life which supersessionist and nonsupersessionist scholars alike agree upon, and therefore any version of pro-Palestinian Christianity which denies the Jewish roots of Christianity arguably gives the dangerous impression of seeking to expunge Jews and Jewishness from Christianity.