Nigeria’s Christian Zionists

By Ogaga Ifowodo
Posted on Friday, 17 October 2014 14:56

As the horrors of the latest battle in the unending Israeli-Palestinian war shocked the world and Nigerian Christians cheered Israel to victory, I recalled a Pentecostal church service I attended in the southern city of Warri at the insistence of my born-again niece.

Didn’t Jehovah create the Palestinians? Aren’t they his children too?

The pastor urged his congregation to pray for Israel, once again threatened by her philistine neighbours. Then ensued a paroxysm of prayer and speaking- in-tongues.

The pastor stoked the frenzy: “Nothing the Palestinians could do would make God break his promise to his chosen people.”

“So why pray?”, I blurted out. No one noticed. I turned to my niece and asked her: “Didn’t Jehovah create the Palestinians? Aren’t they his children too? Why would he promise the land belonging to some of his children to some other children? Why would God the father play favouritism with his children?”

Her response: “You can’t question God.”

Three decades later, I ask the same questions of a cousin in whose living room we are viewing images of Israel’s unrestrained use of force in Gaza. He tells me the Palestinians do not deserve pity.

Firstly, they are fighting a hopeless battle over land God promised to Abraham, and, secondly, “the Arabs are a problem everywhere, terrorising the world with their violent religion”.

It does not help that the atrocities of Boko Haram in north-eastern Nigeria and of the Islamic State are also in the news. I push for a sober answer and he says: “We can’t question God.”

I suppose every good Christian is a Zionist, meaning he or she who believes in the literal and immutable truths of the Old Testament.

My Nigerian brethren are more Zionist than Ari Shavit, whose great-grandfather collaborated with Theodor Herzl, Zionism’s founding father.

In My Promised Land: the Triumph and Tragedy of Israel – an astounding personal narrative history that everyone should read – Shavit utters what the Nigerian Christian would call blasphemy: that Israel was founded upon a great historical injustice, beginning with the conquest of Arab towns and villages and the expulsion of their populations during the 1948 war.

“The nation I am born into,” Shavit explains, “has erased Palestine from the face of the earth. Bulldozers razed Palestinian villages, warrants confiscated Palestinian land, laws revoked Palestinian citizenship and annulled their homeland.”

Christian Nigeria’s biblical literalism notwithstanding, the world recoils increasingly from the brutal reality of Israeli colonisation of Palestine.

Israel runs the risk of becoming a pariah, much like apartheid South Africa.

Maybe this suits the Jewish sense of abandonment poignantly expressed by the Zionist hero Yitzhak Tabenkin, who said: “Bitter is the knowledge of our solitude and the knowledge that the world is our enemy.”

True, perhaps, before the liberation of Auschwitz, but does Israel wish now to be the world’s enemy instead? The question does not cross the mind of Nigerian Zionists. ●

The author, Ogaga Ifowodo is a writer and poet.

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