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Questions about terrorism inevitably occur when discussing the Israel-Palestine issue. For Christians who support the cause of the Palestinian people’s search for justice and self determination in the land of their birth, these questions are even more prevalent.
The general narrative concerning Palestinian and Arab terrorism runs along the lines that it is motivated by religious extremism and blatant anti-Semitism. The Palestinian people’s legitimate grievance against the Zionist State of Israel is completely ignored as is the circumstances that they are forced to live under because of the illegal occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of the Gaza strip. The facts of history that testify to the origins of this conflict not being even remotely connected to some imaginary conflict between Islam and Judaism and that anti-Semitism never was part of elite or popular culture in the Arab world, as it was in Europe, are totally ignored. The oppressive policies of the State of Israel are given a pardon by the demand that it is actually the Palestinian leadership that is the cause of the Palestinian people’s plight.
The fact that the vast majority of Palestinians have never been involved in acts of terrorism but in fact resist their oppressors in a “Ghandi” like fashion is also overlooked.
In my opinion, the vast majority of acts of terrorism are driven by the despair, misery and sense of helplessness experienced by victims of oppression as non violent means of protest are seen to be useless as they are met with only increasing levels of oppression and violence by their oppressors. As despair deepens, the voices of extremism begin to seem like the only ones worth listening to. I believe this is the universal experience of humanity. All resistance movements act in ways that have integrity and in ways that do not. The Palestinian people are no different. While the U.N. has declared that the Palestinian people have the right to resist the illegal occupation of their homelands to the point of armed struggle, the use of terrorism has been denounced by Palestinian leaders and intellectuals as being unjust, immoral and counter productive, for many years. Palestinians have long accepted Israel’s right to exist in peace and security while the Zionist state has made no reciprocal statements about the RIGHT of a Palestinian homeland to exist.
The words of David Ben Gurion, the real founder of the Zionist State of Israel, ring true when talking about Jewish terrorism during the British Mandate period in Palestine:
“Two hundred and fifty thousand Jews of Tel Aviv and suburbs, core of country’s social and industrial life, and thirty thousands of Jews in Jerusalem, mostly working class quarters, isolated from all normal contact with outside world, facing complete breakdown of mechanism civilized life apart from food supplies and skeleton medical service. Industry crippled, trade paralysed, unemployment threatening to become catastrophic. Industrial raw materials cannot enter, goods manufactured with available stock cannot be marketed outside. Workers cut off from places of work, children from schools. These restrictions have not affected terrorists nor stopped their outrages but instead have increased resentment of hard-hit population, created fertile soil for terrorist propaganda, frustrating community’s attempt to combat terrorism by itself. Martial Law absolutely futile and senseless unless really meant to punish whole community, ruin its economy and destroy the foundations of the Jewish National Home.” (Cited in Finkelstein, 2003. p. xxxvi)
Here Ben Gurion passionately condemns the use of collective punishment (illegal under the Fourth Geneva convention of which Australia is a signatory) on the Jewish people for the acts of Zionist terrorists, and its ineffectiveness in combating further acts of terrorism in the future. An almost identical statement could be made concerning the citizens of Gaza today.
The Zionist state constantly condemns Palestinian acts of terror while only continuing to increase the measures which even David Ben Gurion clearly admits will only increase the likely hood of further terrorist attacks.
The government of Gaza was initially elected to power in elections that were declared free and fair by all the international organisations that monitored them. The ensuing blockade and demonisation of Hamas and the people of Gaza, which lead to Operation Cast Lead, has only consolidated the hold that Hamas has on Gaza and further opened the ears of young Palestinians in Gaza to the voices of those even more extreme than Hamas. The blockade of Gaza is no more about a true fight to rid the region from terrorism as the Separation Barrier in the West Bank is about security for Jews in Israel and the West Bank.
Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, Norman G. Finkelstein. Verso, 2003 (second edition)
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Who Owns the Land of Palestine?
A basic tenant of Christian Zionism is that the Jewish people sovereignly own the land of Palestine. For the Christian Zionists, to even designate the region as, “The Land of Palestine” is to betray ones ignorance of the true status of the ownership of the holy land. The proof texts from scripture used by the proponents of this Zionist position are said to be plain, unequivocal and compelling in the extreme. Followers of Jesus who hold to doctrines at odds with the Christian Zionist position are looked upon by them with a suspicion that borders on outright denunciation of the faith. The most widely known proof text comes from the twelfth chapter of the Book of Genesis.
The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse and all families of the earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen 12:1-3).
The, “land that I will show you”, is universally accepted as relating to the land of Palestine as it was known before the creation of the modern Zionist State of Israel in May of 1948. In fact the land designated in scripture that this covenant promise refers to encompasses a region significantly larger than the Zionist state of Israel and the Occupied Territories. The covenant promise is further revealed a few chapters on in the same book of the Bible.
Abram fell face down, and God said to him, “As for Me, this is My covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram, your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you and kings will come from you. I will establish My covenant as an everlasting covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”(Gen 17:3–8).
These two passages of scripture stand as the unshakable foundation of Christian Zionist belief. God has given the sovereign title deed to the land of Canaan to the Jewish people and they have an absolute right to take the land that belongs to them in any manner they see fit. That right is conferred upon them by no other condition than their Jewishness, their descent from Abraham, the Children of Israel. This sovereign Jewish ownership of the land is as absolute as any fact could possibly be. It matters not whether the nations of the world recognise it; it is the consummate fact of history by the absolute decree and promise of God Himself. All who fail to recognise this fact and act according to that mistaken premise align themselves, knowingly or unknowingly, with the forces of darkness that seek to thwart the plans of the Almighty God. They become complicit with the plans of the anti-Christ. The land of Canaan is the possession of the Jewish people; even more so than the land bought by private citizens is their possession. It is the everlasting possession of the Jews by the very word of God.
How could this understanding of the relationship of the Jewish people to the land of Canaan possibly be disputed by anyone desiring to be faithful to the Bible as God’s word? Surely no-one who has studied these texts with a desire to follow the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob could ever dispute this most obvious teaching of the scriptures.
The certainty of the Christian Zionist’s conviction in their understanding of the relationship of the Jewish people to the land of Canaan takes its first hit when confronted with the historical fact that for 18 centuries, Orthodox Judaism has not shared this understanding. Rabbis of the Jewish faith have never believed that the Jewish people can take the land of Canaan at anytime, in any manner they see fit. Jewish tradition, derived directly from the Old Testament of the Bible, has always recognised the conditional nature of the Jewish people’s entry and occupation of the land of promise. Torah Judaism has never interpreted the covenant of God with Abraham in the sense that Jewish people have an unconditional right to take the land of Canaan for themselves simply by virtue of their Jewishness. The land does not belong to them.
“The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is Mine and you are but aliens and My tenants.” (Lev 25:23)
The land of Israel is a Holy Land. Even by this designation we can see to whom the land really belongs. Holiness in the Bible primarily refers to the concept of ownership rather than moral purity. A piece of land or a space in a temple can hardly be said to have the quality of being morally pure. The term “Holy Land” reveals to us that the land is God’s. The Jewish people, a Holy Nation, belong to God and can never be “as the nations”. As such the land is not a “homeland” but a Holy Land; a land set apart for the purposes of God, not merely the purposes of men, and the Jewish people have a very particular God given mandate as God’s people in this Holy Land. The scriptures reveal this mandate and give further detail and qualification to the covenant promises of God to Abraham and the Jewish people.
The Exodus narrative clearly tells how the first generation of Abraham’s descendants to be redeemed from Egypt were barred from entry into the Promised Land. Had God broken His promise to Abraham by not letting Moses, Aaron and the rest of the Hebrews claim the land of Canaan as their possession? Three millennia of Judeo-Christian teaching have emphatically declared that He had not.
That first generation were halted in their tracks because they had not fulfilled the conditions of obedience and faithfulness to God via obedience to the Law. The Jews were not required to be perfect to enter the land, but they did have to be oriented towards the Lord in faith and obedience for them to find rest in the land of milk and honey. They did not earn their redemption nor were they threatened with having it revoked for their disobedience, but there were conditions that the first rebellious generation, the generation that worshipped the golden calf and tested the Lord on numerous occasions with their disobedience, did not fulfil. Hence they wandered in the desert for forty years until every last one of them, Moses and Aaron included, had perished for their sins. God would not endorse a rebellious Jewish people’s taking of the land He had promised. Implicit in the promise were the ethical conditions that reveal the very heart of God and His purposes in creating the nation of Israel.
And while occupying the land, the descendants of Abraham had similar conditions to live up to in order for them to avoid the dreaded consequences of disobedience while living in the land of Canaan; exile.
‘“You are to distribute the land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who have settled among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. In whatever tribe the alien settles, there you are to give him his inheritance,” declares the Sovereign Lord’ (Ezek 47:22-23).
“You are to have the same law for the alien and the native born.” (Lev 24:22).
“Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.” (Ex22:21).
“So let not the land spew you out for defiling it, as it spewed out the nation that came before you.” (Lev 18:28).
“You shall faithfully observe all My laws and all My regulations, lest the land to which I bring you to settle in spew you out.” (Lev 20:22).
“When an alien (non-Jew) lives with you in your land, do not mistreat or oppress him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native born. Love him as yourself for you were an alien in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (Lev 20:33, 34.).
Thus says the Lord God of Israel: You shed blood, yet you would keep possession of the land? You rely on your sword, you do abominable things…yet you would keep possession of the land?…I will make the land a desolate waste, and her proud strength will come to an end, and the mountains of Israel will become desolate so that no one will cross them. Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I have made the land a desolate waste because of all the detestable things they have done. (Ezek. 33:25-29)
The Israelites were to learn, very painfully, that God meant what He said. Twice in history the Jewish people have been expelled from the land for their disobedience. The conditions of their tenancy being continually violated, they were forced into exile until repentance was found in the Israelites once more.
Tenants do not own the property they live in. So how do we understand God’s promise to give Abraham’s descendants the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession in the light of this revelation? The answer lies in realising that the ethical traditions of Judaism supersede the traditions of the land. This comes from the understanding of God’s plan of redemption which intimately involves the Jewish people. Biblical redemption is redemption from the sinfulness of humanity. The covenant of God regarding the land can not be separated from God’s righteousness and desire for humanity’s redemption and consequent obedience to God. God’s concern is for all of humanity and a great part of the Jewish ethical tradition concerns the treatment of the stranger, the alien, the non-Jew and all the vulnerable in the land of Canaan.
Assuming that the promise regarding the land meant the land literally, and did not have a dual meaning relating to the Kingdom of Heaven in general, we can make some suggestions as to how we can reconcile God’s promise to Abraham and the implicit ethical requirements of Israel to remain in the land. For the land of Canaan to be an everlasting possession of the Jewish people, those very Jewish people must live up to the ethical conditions required of them forever. This could never happen outside of the ultimate reality of God’s final and total redemption from sin and this is what is at the heart of God’s plan for the Jewish people. The Jewish people can no more live eternally in Canaan while still sinning against the Lord than Christians believe they can live with God eternally in the Kingdom of Heaven in a sinful state. The everlasting possession of the land by the Jewish people is really pointing to what God really desired for the Children of Israel; that they live with a righteousness that is their eternal possession. Occupation of the land by Jewish people can not be separated from this ultimate requirement and desire of the heart of God.
The purpose of God in creating the Jewish people was to make a people for Himself; a royal priesthood and a Holy nation; through whom all families of the earth would be blessed according to His redemption plan. An occupation of the Holy Land by the Jewish people outside of this heavenly vision is against the very heart of God and cannot stand.
The Jewish people DO NOT OWN the land of Palestine. The Lord God owns this Holy Land and the Jewish people are his tenants and are aliens in the land. The currency of this everlasting “rental” agreement is adherence to the ethical traditions of Judaism. Traditions that demand equality and justice for all in Israel.
A grave question mark hangs over the Zionist State of Israel. According to Christian Zionists, the very idea of an illegitimate possession and control of the land of Israel by Jewish people is a contradiction in terms, but in truth finds verification in both the Old Testament and the traditions of Torah Judaism. The Oaths of the Talmud, forbidding Jews to retake Palestine by either force or political activism, clearly speak to us of the reality of the possibility of Jewish control of the land of Canaan being in actual fact illegitimate. Oaths need not be taken for the prohibition of something that God Himself has vowed never to allow to eventuate in any shape or form. God has placed the responsibility of the prohibition to never re-enter Canaan on masse, on the Jewish people themselves. He has never said that he will bar them from entry if they try and break those oaths. To do so would be to annul the oaths that He Himself has caused the Rabbis to take.
What will become of this false taking of the land by the rebellious Zionists is known only to God. Let us pray that God would have mercy upon them.
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Lessons from the Exodus
The great redemption event of the Old Testament Scriptures of the Bible is known as the Exodus, the story of which is contained in the book of the same name. To understand the message of this book, as well as the rest of the Pentateuch, is pivotal to a proper understanding of both Judaism and Christianity. The lessons learnt from this book, both theological and political, have far reaching consequences for today’s world. However, the consequences for one particular country, the Zionist State of Israel, are quite probably so dire, that one would assume that the book of Exodus would be required reading for every citizen of that country.
The story of the Exodus is hardly unknown in the western world. From Sunday school to DreamWorks Animation’s, “The Prince of Egypt”, most people have been exposed to the basic story of the Exodus. The Exodus is a physical as well as a symbolic example of Divine redemption. It is a redemption won completely by the hand of the Almighty. An unmerited act of favour bestowed on the descendants of Abraham by virtue of the gracious covenant made by God with the Patriarch some 400 years before.
The land of Canaan, promised to Abraham’s descendants by God, is still inhabited by a people not related to Abraham when the story line is picked up at beginning of the book of Exodus. Abraham is long dead, as is his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob. Jacob’s twelve sons have also perished and most importantly, a Pharaoh has risen in Egypt that knows nothing of the favoured position that Joseph, Jacob’s favourite son, had enjoyed in the courts of Pharaoh when the children of Israel first moved to Egypt to escape the calamity of an oncoming famine.
The Hebrews had been fruitful and had multiplied in number in Egypt up to a point where the Egyptians feared that the Hebrews large population would put in jeopardy the Egyptian’s majority rule. Egypt was wealthy, powerful and a noble civilisation. It was an empire that shone like a beacon in an otherwise dark and brutal world. Its system of justice and fairness to Egyptians left the other nations in a position of envy. But all that would be put at risk if the Hebrews were allowed to get the upper hand. Egypt would be overrun by uncivilised hoards and her glory would turn to ashes. Something had to be done by Pharaoh.
His answer was a combination of slavery and genocide. The children of Israel were put under the bonds of slavery to work for the Egyptian empire that feared them. But the more oppressed the Hebrews were, the more they multiplied in number and the more the fear of them increased in the hearts of the Egyptians. The more the fear of them increased the more the hatred of them increased. The descendants of Abraham cried out from under the bonds of the pitiless oppression they suffered. They cried out in anguish and God, remembering His promise to Abraham, came to their rescue. He came to their rescue not because they were a righteous people, deserving of mercy by their own virtue, but because of the unmerited compassion and love of the Almighty.
According to the plan of God, Moses was saved from the Pharaoh ordained policy of infanticide against God’s chosen people. But years later Moses, upon seeing the suffering of his people, reacted in anger and killed an Egyptian for abusing one of the Hebrew slave workers. He covered up the murder and fled into the wilderness trying to escape the consequences of his crime.
Years later God called Moses once again and after visiting the famous ten plagues on the Egyptians, the children of Israel were finally driven from their place of torment in Egypt by the edge of the swords of the Egyptians themselves. The Exodus narrative clearly demonstrates that the salvation of God came by grace alone, despite the faithlessness of the Hebrews. The Jewish people complained, “Were there not enough graves in Egypt that we had to be brought into the desert to die?” .At no stage did they display a trust or faith in the God who was saving them from the oppression they cried out from. Yet God in His grace never faltered in His mercy to them. His plan to save them was His choice, not theirs. He desired to take them as a people for Himself; to be a royal priesthood and a Holy nation and through them God would bless all families of the earth in His gracious plan to redeem all of creation.
At Sinai, God gave His people the Law. In numerous places in that Law God reminded His people of the plight He had rescued them from so graciously. He reminded them that all they had was due to the graciousness of God and not won by their own hand or by their own virtue. They were to be a people not like any of the nations of the world; the royal priesthood of the gracious God of Abraham. They were to be the people of grace, justice and mercy: A people who craved the grace and justice of God rather than the power, wealth and status desired by the nations. They were to have no King, God would be their King. Israel was not to be a meritocracy for it was never created by human means. It was to be a kingdom of grace.
God reminded the Hebrews of His mercy to them in Egypt whenever He commanded His people about how to treat non-Jews living amongst them. The entire story was to be a lesson in how to treat others different from themselves who shared the land of Canaan with them. Israel was never to behave like Egypt.
Fast forward to the time of Jesus. When asked why He ate and drank with sinners, Jesus told a story that has become one of the most beloved of all the New Testament parables: The Parable of the Prodigal Son. This parable of the father who spoiled his lost, undeserving, sinful, prodigal son when he found him once again was meant to sound strangely familiar to the Jewish religious teachers of the day. Not only was it a story of God’s love for the lost of Jesus day, it mirrored the story of the Exodus. Israel was and always has been the prodigal son of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God had always been redeeming and unconditionally accepting prodigals and Jesus was doing exactly the same as His Father.
Now fast forward to the present day. Has the Zionist state of Israel remembered the commandments of its prodigal son loving God?
In 1948 the Zionist State of Israel was created following the mandate of the United Nations in 1947. In previous generations Jews and Palestinian Arabs had been on good terms. Islam and Judaism had co-existed in the region for 13 centuries. But all that was about to change. In 1948, fifty five percent of the land of Palestine was given to the Zionists when Jews comprised barely a third of the population and officially owned only 6% of the land. But a huge problem remained. The numbers of Arabs in Israel put fear in the hearts of the Zionists. At the time of the creation of the Zionist State, the population of Israel was roughly 499,000 Jews to 510,000 Arabs. The Zionist State desired to be a democracy, a land of freedom that would be a shining example of civilisation in the otherwise barbaric Middle East. But all these Arabs would destroy the glory that was to be the New Zionist Israel. Something had to be done by Ben Gurion and his compatriots.
What they came up with was known as Plan Dalet. The ethnic cleansing of Palestine. The Arab world rejected the partition of Palestine because of the injustice it did to the indigenous Palestinians. Even before one Arab soldier came into Palestine to defend its native people, some 300,000 Palestinians had been dispossessed by Zionist forces. After six months of ethnic cleansing operations, nearly 800,000 Palestinians had been removed from their homes. Now the Zionists had a majority in Israel. The Zionists promptly demolished the houses of the dispossessed Palestinians so they could not return and within 2 years they enacted the Law of Return so that Jews and their spouses from anywhere in the world could come to Israel and gain full citizenship while the indigenous Palestinians, made refugees in 1948, could only watch in dismay. Now Israel could be a true democracy!
No move on to 1967. While stateless Palestinians sheltered in what was now only 22% of their original homeland, Arab nations sought ways to undo the damage done in 1948. In June of 1967, in response to Egyptian troops building up in the Sinai, Israel launched a pre-emptive attack on its enemies and in six days it defeated its foes and occupied the remaining 22% of Palestine. Now the Zionists had all of Palestine under their control! But there was a huge problem. The same one they and the Egyptians had faced previously. There were still too many Arabs. Israel wanted to be a shining light of democracy to the world and be a nation of power and wealth and military strength. But these Arabs were a bunch of barbarians and they would tare down the Zionist State and turn it into a sewer of Islamist demagoguery. Something had to be done.
This time they decided not to ethnically cleanse the remaining Palestinians in the occupied territories. No country would take any more refugees and the world was watching this time anyway. This time they would come up with another plan. They would keep the Palestinians in huge open air prisons with Palestinians running the prisons on the inside but Zionists holding all the keys and minding all the exits and standing on all the walls. If the inmates co-operated with their keepers they would be given privileges; they could go out and work in Israel for Israelis (so long as they had a permit). If they rebelled against their jailers, the riot squad would be sent in to deal with the trouble makers. If they did not stop misbehaving, the Zionists would lay siege to the prison until the will of the Palestinians was broken.
Now at last Israel can be a democracy! A shining light of freedom in an otherwise dark world of tyranny and hopelessness. Israel can now be like Egypt! Who better to be the jailers of Palestinian barbarians than the Zionists? Who else could deal with such a dreadful situation in such a civilised manner?
History has been utterly reversed. Now the Zionists sit in the seat of Pharaoh and proceed to strangle the life out of the Palestinians with the same sense of entitlement that motivated the Egyptian Monarch. The Zionist State of Israel has violated all the ethical principals that exist as conditions for the Jewish people’s occupation of Palestine. As Egypt was destroyed and Israel was later twice to be forced into exile by the hand of God, so the current State of Israel moves ever closer to the edge of oblivion as it rebels against its God given mandate to love the alien as one of their own native born. The lessons of the Exodus have been ignored by the Zionists. In reality, its message has been buried under a mountain of secular nationalistic idolatry and justified by the continual bombardment of Zionist interpretations of the meaning of the Shoah. This is no surprise to anyone who knows of the origins of Zionism. A secular nationalistic movement that sought to redefine Jewishness in a way that centred on nationalism rather than Torah values. As the Israeli intellectual, Boaz Evron once said, “Zionism is indeed the negation of Judaism”.
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