"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path". Ps 119:105
THE PALESTINIAN PROBLEM
WHOSE RIGHT TO THE LAND ?
2001 to present day continued terrorism, violence and murder perpetrated by the Palestinians who whilst claiming statehood are not and have never been a nation.
RIGHT OR CONQUEST?
When 'peace' had been declared between Israel and the Palestinians represented by the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), the long-lived debate over 'right of occupation' of the 'Biblical' territory of Palestine had subsided into the background. Politicians were accepting the idea that both people could share the land of Israel/Palestine. Even if the exact mechanism of government had not been proven. Recent events however have thrown the area once again into intense turmoil, with each side blaming the other for instigating the violence. The Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capitol whilst the Israelis state Jerusalem is their eternal undivided capitol. Will the final outcome only be decided by strife?
When it comes to right of occupation, world history has shown that no nation has been able to declare 'right' on their side and enforce that 'right' (as to who will live where), unless they do so with force of arms. In short, 'might is right', and 'possession is nine-tenths of the law.' Throughout history conquest has been, overwhelmingly, the mechanism of population control and movement.
POLITICALLY CORRECT ?
Today, in the late 20th Century, we could not argue 'Britain is for the British' or 'France is for the French' or 'Holland is for the Dutch' because to be British or French or Dutch involves many technical arguments on entitlement as well as just the place of birth. By accepted international law, you are a citizen of the country (territory) in which you are physically born. Clearly in some countries this does not count for much. In the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda 'ethnic cleansing' is deemed a politically and military justifiable objective by those who were involved in the civil wars. This process still continues despite the supposed cessation of hostilities. But what is the situation between the Israelis and Palestinians? Who has the right to live in the land? Who decides?
As Bible students, we are concerned with what the Bible says about this territory. Palestine, formerly Canaan is the narrow strip of land bounding the eastern Mediterranean sea. It is at the crossroads of the three continents, Europe, Africa and Asia. This land of Israel, as it became known, is of utmost importance to the plans of God as outlined in Bible prophecies.
The relevance of this territory today has to do with history, God's chosen people, Jesus Christ and the future Kingdom of God. So whatever the rights or wrongs of today's situation, from a Bible perspective (and the perspective of the true Christian), the future situation is all that matters.
The majority of Jews and Arabs in the Middle East live their lives with a similar level of mistrust, greed, hatred and indifference, to that which we find in most other countries of the world such as Russia, Iraq, Namibia, Bosnia, Ireland, Indonesia to name but a few.
But what marks out the Palestinian/Israeli situation as different, is that the Bible tells us, clearly, that the future of the whole world is tied up in the future of this 'land of Israel' and its inhabitants. The father of the Hebrew (Jewish) nation Abraham, was promised by God:
So it turns out that the ultimate fate of the Palestinians, collectively or individually, is Linked to the fate of the Jews by Divine promise whether they appreciate it or not!
It is no accident that the Palestinians have developed alongside the state of Israel. They may argue that their 'claim' to the land is older, nevertheless if one goes back to the mid 19th century, the population was predominantly Christian, Arabian or Muslim. Generally the land was impoverished, as were many of the surrounding countries. When the Balfour declaration was made on 2nd November 1917, Britain was in the throes of liberating Palestine from Turkish authority. It was not until 9th December 1917 that General Allenby's troops liberated Jerusalem. It was not until 1922 that Britain was given the mandate over Palestine as a British protectorate. In 1922 the population of Palestine comprised 590.000 Arabs and 84,000 Jews, a ratio of 7,1. By 1948 this had increased to 980.000 Arabs and 650,000 Jews, a ratio of 1.5:1.
TERRORISM ON BOTH SIDES AND PARTITION
During the 30 years of British rule. the Arabs opposed the rapidly increasing Jewish immigration. Armed Arab attacks on Jewish settlements were frequent. In1937 the British proposed a partition between Jewish and Arab areas, but this was rejected by the Arabs. In 1939 Britain announced an absolute limit of 75,000 on future Jewish immigration. This closed Palestine to many refugees from Nazi persecution in Europe and led to Jewish terrorist action against the British. In November 1947 the new United Nations approved a partition plan supported by 33 nations including the USSR and the USA. Thirteen nations (mostly from the Arab League) opposed it. Eleven nations (including Britain) abstained. Jerusalem was to remain under international control.
Arab-Jewish violence was intense following the publication of the partition plan which, for the Arabs was totally unacceptable. This violence continued until the British withdrawal on 15th May 1948, when the Arabs launched a series of attacks on the Jewish designated territory. The Jews responded by declaring the State of Israel on the same day in May 1948. This State was attacked by the surrounding Arab nations in 1948, 1967 and 1973. In 1978 the world was astonished when Egypt became the first front line state to sign a peace treaty with Israel. However, Arab hostility continued and President Anwar Sadat was assassinated by Arab extremists
During the whole of this period the Palestinian Arabs have been the 'meat-in- the-sandwich', pawns in a game of international strategy, often without an effective voice, largely ignored by Israel and Arab nations alike. They were a convenient bargaining counter for the more powerful Arab states who were not ready to accept them in their own lands. Israel meanwhile was prevented from pursuing realistic solutions by the extreme nature of Jewish politics and orthodox sects. Even today there is no clear direction on how the situation will be resolved. There is a 'peace process' but even the limited agreements reached so far have not even been fully implemented, and the Palestinians still seek full nationhood with half of Jerusalem as their capitol, something Israel cannot accept. The cynic may observe that we have not moved forward from the time when the Turkish ruled, and no one suggested that Turkish people had 'rights' to the land, or the British! As we have already indicated. there is no 'correct' answer available to man. The answer ultimately is only available from God Himself! The choice of who shall have the land is His, and that decision will be backed up by unstoppable force
GOD CHOOSES - A BIBLE PRINCIPLE
God told the great King Nebuchadnezzar. who conquered Palestine in the 6th Century BCE that He (God) alone determines the fate of nations and rulers:
Moses, the man of God, expounded the principle of God's choice in these words:
Paul, the apostle of Jesus, tells us about world rulers and men in authority in his Letter to the Romans:
Based on this scriptural principle, God is taking an active interest in human affairs. We conclude that the situation in the Middle East, Palestinian versus Jew, is similarly under the interest of 'the Most High'.
GOD'S PLAN FOR THE LAND
God promised to give the land of Canaan to Abraham, He swore an oath backed up by his existence (the unstoppable force) that Abraham and his descendants would inherit the land as a possession:
Who were Abraham's descendants? When will they inherit the Land?
Abraham's first son was called Ishmael which means 'God will hear.' He was born to Hagar the Eyptian servant girl. Yet God said he would not be the 'proper descendant' or 'seed', "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." However about Ishmael he also said:
So we see that God had chosen the heir, Isaac, son of Sarah, was to be the entitled descendant who would inherit the land of Canaan, Nevertheless, God also made a promise to Ishmael:
HOSTILITY TO ALL?
The Bible record confirms that Ishmael had 12 sons who settled from " Havilah to Shur ", from Assyria to Egypt. Those descendants were called Ishmaelites and were nomadic traders, It was these very traders who sold Joseph, the favoured great-grandson of Abraham, into captivity in Egypt. Unwittingly they assisted the development of Israel's descendants into a nation during their captivity in Egypt. In Psalm 83 we read that the Ishmaelites are in a pact with the other nations against Israel:
These are also described as the descendants of Lot, Abraham's nephew. We see here that animosity and hostility have been part of the lives of both these descendants of Abraham. Arab nations and Palestinians can be identified from these claims and many claim ancestries to Abraham via Ishmael and his family. Twentieth Century events have borne out the truth of these prophetic words of the Psalmist.
After the exodus from Egypt, the fledgling nation of Israel was led by Moses towards the 'Promised Land' - Canaan in accordance with God's promise to Abraham recorded in Genesis.' But their possession of Canaan was conditional upon them being worthy descendants of Abraham the man of faith. If they departed from this sacred trust and followed the ungodly nations around them they would forfeit the inheritance:
This all happened to Israel. The Jews were scattered around the world and the majority of them remain scattered to this present day.
JEWS TO RETURN TO PALESTINE
The Jewish Diaspora or scattering was effectively complete by AD73. Jews were taken to all corners of the Roman Empire and thus started the long history of Jewish wanderings, expulsions and persecutions throughout Europe, Asia and North Africa and eventually the rest of the known world. It is the separate identity of the Jew that has made him a target for rulers, church leaders and mobs, Jews have been the scapegoats for society's ills in many countries throughout history. Despite many attempts to eradicate and annihilate them, the Jews remain witnesses to God's hand at work in the world. These words were spoken by God through the prophet Jeremiah:
God promised to bring the Jews back to Palestine:
These words are from the prophet Amos:
God explains through the words of Ezekiel that He will not restore the Jews for their own sake or because they are worthy of special treatment. He restores them and gives them the land of Israel because of His own justice and judgment and because of the covenant with Abraham and the oath He made.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
The full restoration of the kingdom of Israel is the beginning of the Kingdom of God. Jesus will return and judge all nations. Then there will be no more debate about territory or resources, water or food. This is the time that all God-fearing people look for. There will be peace and plenty. Jews and Arabs will live in peace and will no longer be deprived of the necessities of life. However. peace will be conditional upon subjection to God and His appointed ruler Jesus Christ who is the illustrious descendant of Abraham. As we saw at the beginning of this article, only God has the power to do the things He has promised in the Bible. Whatever politicians decide in the near future can only be implemented where permitted by God as a necessary part of His great plan that is to culminate in the Kingdom of God.