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No Biblical basis for Unconditional support of the Zionist State of Israel
A theme that runs right through both Old and New Testaments of the Bible is that the gracious promises of God are not there to inspire us to act with arrogance, considering ourselves to be more worthy of God’s favour than others once we have made the initial step of acknowledging the mercy of the Almighty or to endow us with a sense of entitlement that gives license to indulge ourselves in our own personal agendas regardless of who we hurt in the process. The words of John the Baptist should ring loudly in the ears of those who wave Israeli flags at evangelical gatherings:
“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our Father”. For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham “(Luke 3:8).
Here John the Baptist is simply repeating a major theme of scripture, that is, claims of unconditional favour and support by God for Jewish people simply on the basis of their lineage to Abraham are invalid. Simply being Abraham’s descendant does not give any Israelite an entitlement to God’s blessing and escape the ethical requirements of God’s covenental relationship with the Jewish people. This theme holds particularly to the concept of the promises of land to the Jewish people. In chapter 8 of the Gospel of John, Jesus confronts His fellow Jews who also believe they have a privileged position with God due to their status as Abraham’s descendants, but Jesus rebukes them as well.
Jewish territorial theology can either be a blessing (for those who understand that God’s promises require humility and patience in waiting upon the Lord), or a curse (as in the case of those who see those promises as a justification for selfishness and the brutal grasping of what they see as their own personal entitlement).
Christian Zionists see only the promises of God to give the land to Israel and ignore the ethical demands that are inextricably linked to those very promises. Hence they see no need to criticize the Zionists unethical pattern of acquiring more and more territory in Israel-Palestine. But scripture tells a completely different story. The prophets Isaiah, Micah and Ezekiel condemn the actions of those who use the promise of land to dispossess the Jewish or Gentile inhabitants of the land:
“Woe to you who join house to house, who add field to field, until their is room for no one but you and you are alone living in the midst of the land.” (Isa 5:8)
“Woe to you…who covet fields and seize them, houses and take them away, who oppress householder and house, people and inheritance” (Mic 2:1-3)
““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” (Ezekiel 47:22-23 )
A good case in point regarding the proper understanding of God’s gracious promises comes in the case of the birth of Isaac, the son of Abraham and Sarah that was promised to Abraham by God. As the story is told in the book of Genesis, Sarah was barren and Abraham had no heir and no one to pass on his name. Though in their nineties, God promised a son to the elderly couple but in verse after verse of the Old Testament scriptures we see how Abraham foolishly tried to grasp at this promise (even sleeping with his wife’s maidservant Hagar), causing no end of pain and misery to everyone in the process. But the promises of God can not be obtained by the selfish and greedy attempts of humanity but must be waited for with patience and faith. So too the promises with regards the land of Canaan. Just as Abraham could not force the promises for a son to become a reality, so the Jewish people can not take it into their own hands to take the land of Canaan for their own purposes. The land is not theirs, it is God’s land. They are His tenants (Lev 25:23)
In the book of Genesis we see Abraham willing (quite disturbingly to our modern minds) to give his only son to the Lord rather than disobey the Lord’s command even though the boy was promised to Abraham by that very same word. So too Israel’s connection to the land can only come when it is accompanied by obedience to God. Obedience to God’s ethical responsibilities in the land trumps mere possession of the territory itself.
The Christian Zionist position regarding the current Zionist state of Israel lacks the support of any rigorous Bible study. Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College states that with regard to Christian Zionism:
“No New Testament scholar has written in its defense. Its advocacy groups such as Christians United for Israel and Camera, are generally run by political activists. Its books come from the pens of popular television preachers or lobbyists. I have been invited to debate some of their leaders and find myself with people who have no training in theology. How can such a widespread movement in the Church be successful without a thoughtful theological undergirding?” (2010, p. 123)
The Anglican Bible scholar N.T. Wright says of Christian Zionism that it is:
” the geographical equivalent of a soi-disant ‘Christian’ apartheid, and ought to be rejected as such.” (1994, p 53 – 77)
Christian Zionist theology cannot be taken seriously. To unconditionally support the Zionist state of Israel on some imagined Biblical grounds is pure heresy in both Christian and Jewish tradition.
Burge, G. (2010). Jesus and the Land: The New Testament Challenge to “Holy Land” Theology. Baker Academics, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Wright, N.T. (1994). Jerusalem Past and Present in the Purposes of God. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan
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“That which is hateful to you, do not do to others. ” Rabbi Hillel (1st Century BC)
Religious Zionists of any description love to claim entitlement for the Zionist state to the land of Palestine based on a superficial understanding of the promises of God to Abraham as revealed in the book of Genesis in the Old Testament.
Proverbs 24:17 tells the descendants of Abraham “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth. And let not thy heart be glad when he is overthrown;”
Israeli pilots apparently found no problems in dumping bombs on Gazan children during the day and then going back home to celebrate Hanukkah, during operation Cast Lead, with their own families. The attack commenced at 11:30 in the morning of December 27th 2008. At this time of day the children of Gaza are on the streets as this is the time when the change of shift between morning school and afternoon school takes place. Children are either going home from school or going to school from home.
But to claim such callousness from Israelis is tantamount to anti-Semitism. Much safer to accuse Palestinians of child murder even though far, far more Palestinian children have died at the hands of the IDF than Israeli children have died at the hands of Palestinians. This is, of course, because (as every Zionist will tell you) Palestinians care little for their own children, using them as human shields at the drop of a hat. Zionist ideology has taught Israel’s youth that Palestinian life is at best worthless. Arabs are not worthy recipients of true compassion, let alone equal rights with Israeli Jews. Christian Zionism teaches us that Palestinian life is demonic. How can once cry at the destruction of the devil? All those who do cry for such people are surely in league with the forces of the anti-Christ!
Genesis chapter 18 relates the story of Abraham’s intercession for Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham pleaded with God to spare the wicked city if only ten righteous men could be found. Sadly there are no Abraham’s in Israel today. If there are any, the Zionist state does not esteem them as it says it does in the case of their founding patriarch. Zionism seeks to gain the inheritance of Abraham while resisting the spirit and heart of God’s mandate for the descendants of Abraham. Zionist Israel claims that no amount of righteous or innocent people could ever warrant mercy for the citizens of Gaza. Even an “eye for an eye” has been usurped by a mentality that was expressed by a Rabbi at Zionist mass murderer Baruch Goldstein’s funeral when he said that “one million Arab lives are not worth one Jewish fingernail.” But we should ignore such ravings. It is only the ravings of Arab extremists that should be taken as a true picture of Arab mentality.
Images of Gazan children who have been blown to pieces are never allowed to invoke compassion for Palestinians. If ever such images are shown, the context is always that these things happened because of the insanity and intransigence of groups like Hamas. Responsibility can never lay at the feet of the Israelis. This is an unwritten law in our society. Operation Cast Lead is the fault of Hamas we are told. It is as if the Israeli planes were manned by Islamic militants themselves. Whatever the scenario, Israelis are free to kill Palestinians at will. Any retaliation by Palestinians is quickly portrayed as evidence of the innately violent nature of Arabs toward Jews. Arabs should take their comeuppance and submit to the demands of civilised Israelis. No discussion of the reasons for Palestinian grievances are tolerated. The concept that Palestinian violence might have been provoked by Israeli dispossession and oppression of Arabs will receive the quickest accusations of anti-Semitic motivation that one can imagine.
But such lies can never last. I have as much faith in the ultimate decency of Jewish people (be they Israelis or not) as I do of Arab people or any people in the world today. Israelis will never be free while they continue to oppress their Arab cousins.
In the meantime, I think the words of Miko Peled, son of Matti Peled the Israeli General become peace activist, are sound advise for my Christian brethren who unconditionally support the Zionist state.
“So those people who want to associate themselves with Israel, Zionism and drape themselves in the Zionist flag – the flag that has come to symbolise intolerance, hatred, racism and brutality – they can feel free to do so. But they need to know this:
that when the trials begin and the tribunals take their place, and when the truth and reconciliation commission begins its work and they are finally shamed into admitting they were wrong, they need to remember to go down on their knees and beg forgiveness from the people they so greatly wronged.
They need to realise that we will never forget them and that their conscience will never allow them to forget that they supported the killings, that they draped themselves in the flag and that they mocked the bereaved.
The rest of us will move on in line with the rest of the Middle East which will follow the example of the people of Egypt to create something that will surely be a tremendous accomplishment – a democratic, secular state in our own shared homeland – a state where Muslims, Christians and Jews live as equals and educate their children to love their homeland with its multitude of cultures, its rich history and its promising future.”
Peled. M, The Generals Son. 2011
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God Hears the Cry of the Oppressed
“Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.” Exodus 22: 21 – 24
The Old Testamenst clearly teaches us that the land of Canaan is not owned by the Jewish people. Leviticus 25:23 informs us that…”“The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is Mine and you are but aliens and My tenants”. 3,000 years of Jewish tradition and 2,000 years of Christian tradition affirm that the occupation of the land of Canaan by the Jewish people has been conditional upon their adherence to the religious and ethical traditions of the Torah. These ethical traditions demand that the Jewish people treat non-Jews in a manner reflecting the very heart of God towards all humanity. No sense of arrogant entitlement to the land of Canaan is condoned by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Rabbi Moshe Sober sums up the tradional idea of the relationship of Jews to the land of Israel:
“The notion that we can do whatever we please, to any kind of temptation, or engage in any form of foolish self-aggrandizement without fear of penalty because we have an inside track to the Almighty is the plain opposite of religious faith. It is in fact an affront to the Divine, whose authority to determine the course of history we are usurping. The traditional penalty for this sin is to be sent to face a hostile world with no lucky breaks, no Divine assistance whatsoever, until we learn that only those who are performing God’s will can count on His assistance. Such blind faith is not really a faith in God at all, but rather faith in ourselves. It makes a tool out of the Almighty. It turns Him into a kind of “secret weapon” whose purpose is to guarantee our success at whatever we fancy. It is an idolatrous concept that masks what is actually an irrational belief in our own invincibility” (Sober, 1990, p. 30, 31).
Zionist ideology hardly places the current state of Israel within the confines of the conditions of their tenancy agreement with the Lord God. Rabbi Isaac Breuer (1883–1946) tells us that:
“Zionism is the most terrible enemy that has ever arisen to the Jewish nation. The anti-nationalistic Reform engages it [the Jewish nation] at least in an open fight, but Zionism kills the nation and then elevates the corpse to the throne.”
In response to the disobedience of the Jewish people in Israel with regards to the ethical demands of the Lord, God sent His prophets to warn Israel of their impending exile if they did not repent and treat the vulnerable amongst them as if they were one of their own:
“ if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever.” Jeremiah 7:6,7
“ This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” Jeremiah 23:3
“You are to distribute this 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.” Ezekiel 47:21-23
When Israel ignored the cry of the alien in the land, God sent prophets to call them to repentance. God held Israel to account for not listening to the voice of those who were oppressed in the land.
In 2005, 170 civil Palestinian organisations (many of them Christian) called on the world to enact a program of Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against the Zionist state of Israel in order to bring them into line with international law regarding the human rights of the Arabs of Palestine and Israel. This BDS program is the “cry of the oppressed in the land” to God Himself. God has promised in His word that He will hear their cry and bring justice. It is the cry against the illegal occupation of the West Bank with its illegal settlements, Israeli only highways, checkpoints and house demolitions as well as the siege of Gaza.
God’s love for the Jewish people only acts to make them more accountable for their behaviour in the land of Israel, not less. They have no legitimate occupation of the land outside the ethical and religious conditions of their tenancy. It is because of God’s love for them that He resists their colonialist project to ethnically cleanse the land of Palestine. The BDS movement is the will of God for the Zionist state of Israel and as such it can not be thwarted. The quicker the Zionists, be they Christian or otherwise, come to realise this, the better for all the peoples of the Middle East.
Sober, M. (1990). Beyond the Jewish State: Confessions of a Former Zionist. Summerhill Press, Toronto.
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Zionist Double Speak
According to Benjamin Netanyahu, everyone knows that the pre-Six Day War borders between Israel and the West Bank are militarily indefensible for Israel. How one comes to such a conclusion is beyond me. If the pre-67 borders are indefensible then how is it that Israel managed to exist with those borders from 1949 to 1967 without being destroyed? How is it that Israel was even able to not only defend itself in the Six Day War when those borders were in place, but managed to defeat the Arab armies and actually increase its territory?
Apparently if Israel goes back to the borders it had with the West Bank in 1967, the Israeli military, the best equipped and trained defense force in the region by a mile, will suddenly not be able to defend the citizens of Israel from attack. Its 200 nuclear missiles will disarm themselves and the billions of dollars of military hardware paid for by the U.S. will become inoperable. If Israel goes back to the 67 borders then the international community, including the U.S., will not be able to stop the Arab nations from attacking the Zionist state. Despite the fact that both Hamas and Fatah (as well as all 21 Arab nations) have agreed to a full peace treaty and recognition of Israel if they go back to the pre-67 borders, the Zionist belief that all Arabs will attack Israel must be accepted by everyone.How is it that maintaining the occupations will deter Arab violence, when the Israelis maintain that they have been the victims of Arab violence and hatred while the occupation has been in place? How would ending the occupation act to inflame the Arabs even more? Is Netanyahu crazy?
Netanyahu must decide whether Israel means to permanently occupy the West Bank or not. His complaint that going back to the 67 borders will cut off the settlements from Israel is totally offensive. Did Israel not realize that from day one of the occupation? The words of Ariel Sharon in 1973 should clearly reveal Zionist duplicity on this matter:
“We’ll make a pastrami sandwich of them. We’ll insert a strip of Jewish settlement in between Palestinians, and then another strip of Jewish settlement, right across the West Bank, so that in 25 years time, neither the United Nations, nor the United States, nobody will be able to tear it apart.”
The illegal settlements created by Israel since 1967 were made to end any chance of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu’s words only add further confirmation (as if any were needed) of the reality of Zionist lies and duplicity. The statements by Netanyahu that Israel is ready to make generous concessions to the Palestinians is as offensive as it is false. Netanyahu needs to be reminded that allowing Palestinian rights to equality and self determination are not generous gifts from Israel, but is what Israel is mandated to do by international law and the very word of God.
The real reason that Israel does not want to go back to the pre-67 borders is simply that it will have to give back part of what it has stolen. I have never come across a thief to this day that was happy to give back what they had taken so much trouble to steal. All thieves need to arm themselves against their enemies, their acts only create enemies and their “friends” (often just more thieves) desert them when trouble comes.
Zionist greed for Palestine knows no sense or reason. The 1947 partition plan was a “great deal” for them at the time. They were given 55% of the land when they consisted of only 30% of the population and over 80% of them had arrived in the last 25 years. But this was not enough for them. David Ben Gurion stated in his diaries:
“The Jewish State now being offered to us is not the Zionist objective. Within this area it is not possible to solve the Jewish question. But it can serve as a decisive stage along the path to greater Zionist implementation. It will consolidate in Palestine, within the shortest possible time, the real Jewish force which will lead us to our historic goal.”
After the ethnic cleansing of 800,000 Palestinian Arabs from their homes in 1948, Israel was granted another 23% of Palestine even though this land had been obtained during the course of a war and hence was illegally acquired. Israel should have never been given this territory. Once again the Zionists were given preferential treatment. But this was still not enough for them. The Zionist goal that Ben Gurion hinted at was the creation of a Zionist state that encompasses all of historic Palestine, has a population of Arabs that can never be more than 20% of the population (not the 45%to 50% that existed in 1947 and needed to be ethnically cleansed by the Zionists at that time) and was legally owned by Jewish people in a way that could never be achieved by non-Arabs in Israel no matter how long they have lived there.
Netanyahu’s claim that the Jewish people will not get a second chance, portray his utter rejection of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Israel is no-one’s saviour. It is and never has been the key to the Jewish people’s survival. Fortunately for the Jewish people God will not reject them, but He will not indulge them in their colonialist program for ever. God’s desire for justice and equality for the Arabs of Palestine will be the undoing of the Zionist state unless they repent.
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An Invisible People
Christian Zionists are very fond of telling me that there is no such thing as a Palestinian and no such country as Palestine. The memorials to fallen diggers who died in a place (inscribed on the monuments) known as Palestine, seems to speak otherwise. These religious Zionists maintain that the ancestors of the Arabs who lay claim to rights of self determination in Israel-Palestine today, had no interest in the region until the Zionists came and drained the swamps and made the desert bloom. They demand that the vast majority of the so called “Palestinians” are recent immigrants and hence have no claim to the land in any sense. This argument somehow enables Christian Zionists to close their eyes and ears to the plight of Palestinians, denying them rights that any other people in the western world would take for granted.
Official census data inform us that the Arab population in Palestine in 1893 was 466,200. This would have made Palestine three times more densely populated with Arabs than the state of Tasmania is today with peoples of any type. The population of Jews in Palestine in 1893 was close to 30,000 and the vast majority of them were anti-Zionist in orientation. They required no “Separation Barrier” to protect them from suicide attackers and while they welcomed Jewish migration to Palestine, they did not want a Zionist State to come and ruin the centuries long peace they had enjoyed with the Arabs they lived with.
Christian Zionists tell us that even these 466,200 Arabs in 1893 were drawn to Palestine by the Zionist colonies that existed in Palestine at that time. The fact that the first Zionist colonies in Palestine (impoverished as they were) did not occur until around 1880 and were not to become a “going concern” until the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, doesn’t bother the advocates of this notion. An authoritative study done on this period by Neville Mandel reveals that only a tiny minority of Arabs and Bedouin would have felt any direct presence of the Zionists before 1908. The reality is that these hundreds of thousands of Arabs chose to live in Palestine of their own free will, completely independent from the influence of Zionism in Palestine. Large numbers of them could trace their family lines in Palestine back for centuries. I personally know a Palestinian living in Adelaide who can trace his family line back some 600 years in the land of Palestine.
British census data in 1922 state that the population in Palestine was 757,182 with 11% being Jewish. In 1930 the British counted 1,035,154 inhabitants of Palestine with 16.9% of them Jewish. By the time of the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan, some 1.3 million Arabs lived in Palestine with just over 500,000 Jews. Christian Zionists also charge that the increase in Arab population in the inter-war period was due to migration from Jordan and Syria despite the fact that this argument has been shown to be based on fabricated and unreliable evidence by numerous scholars all over the world, including Israel.
Defenders of the Zionists state’s sense of entitlement to the land of Palestine, over and above any consideration of the Arab population, are forced to admit that the only thing that everyone agrees with, is that it was the Jewish population that was (in the vast majority) the actual newcomers to Palestine. How can it be that recent Arab arrivals to Palestine somehow prove that Arabs have no claim to the land of Palestine while even more recent Jewish arrivals to Palestine never call Zionist sovereignty into question? A Zionist once insisted to me that some Arabs in 1947 had only been in Palestine for 8 years. I countered that a greater number of Jews had only been in Palestine for 8 months! The Bible tells us that the Jews were never indigenous to Palestine. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb (all the founding fathers of Israel) were not born in Israel. Other people groups lived in Palestine well before the Jewish people. Shall we trace their descendants and give them greater rights to anyone else who currently lives in the Holy land?
The point is that no matter how long a person has been living in the place that they choose to call home, they have the right to be treated as equals with all those who share the land with them regardless of race, colour or creed. We all have the right to live in the land we choose to live in, in a manner such that our identity does not place us in a position of disadvantage when compared to those that the state considers to be preferred.
The first Palestinian National Congress occurred in 1919, some 48 years before 1967, the date that some declare to be the time Arabs became interested in the concept of a Palestinian state for the first time. Prior to 1919, Palestine had been part of the Ottoman Turkish empire and Arab nationalist movements would have (not surprisingly) been frowned upon to say the least. Arab Palestinians contributed far more to the defeat of the Turks in Palestine in the First World War, to make a Jewish or Palestinian state even possible, than did the Zionists. Some Zionist leaders even considered supporting the Turks, the allies of Germany, in the Great War.
The Palestinian people might be invisible to Christian Zionists, but not to the God of the Bible. Not to Jesus. Jesus legendary desire to advocate for those considered invisible in Israel in His time, should ring alarm bells for followers of Jesus when we hear the Christian supporters of Zionist Israel demonise and disregard the Palestinian Arab population.
The right to equality for both Jews and Arabs in Israel-Palestine is not conferred by migration statistics, Zionist ideology, the Holocaust, misguided conceptions of God’s promise to Abraham advanced by Christian Zionists but by the simple fact that we ARE ALREADY EQUAL IN GOD’S SIGHT. God loves Palestinian Arabs just as much as He does Jewish people. That should be the beginning and end of the story for all Christians.
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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.
ACTION FOR PALESTINE