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The Biblical Understanding of the Relationship of the Jewish People to the Land of Canaan.

Although I have already posted articles on this blog about the relationship of the Jewish people to the land of Israel-Palestine, from a Biblical perspective, I feel it is necessary to revisit this issue once more (and probably not for the last time).

Let me say emphatically what I believe is the black and white teaching on this subject from a Biblical perspective.

The Jewish people do not own the land of Israel-Palestine. They have no entitlement to it by virtue of their Jewishness alone according to the promises made by God to Abraham and the Patriarchs in the Old Testament of the Bible.

Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, Gary M. Burge, sums up the issue quite accurately:

“God’s remarkable interest in this land can be explained by one undergirding theme. In a profound sense, Israel never “owns” the land of promise. God owns this land. Leviticus uses this idea to explain why the land cannot be sold permanently to others, “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants.” (Lev 25:23). Israel here is viewed as a tenant in this land, an alien, a renter. The recipient of a gift for use. But not a landlord. Israel must hold this land loosely, because God will determine the tenure of its occupants.” (2010, p. 4)

Burge’s work has been endorsed by Walter Brueggemann, of Columbia Theological Seminary, perhaps the worlds leading Christian authority on the Old Testament.

The term “tenants” in the Leviticus quote above is not there by accident. Tenants do not own the land they live on. Outside of the conditions of their tenancy agreement with the lands owner (in this case, God), the tenants do not have any legitimate claim to the land.

“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).

The “rent” that the Israelites had to pay for occupation of the land was faithfulness to God via obedience to the ethical and religious traditions of the Law of Moses. Traditions that demanded that Israel treat all its inhabitants with justice and mercy.

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.” (Ex 22:21-24)

“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. Emphasis added).

Right from the Exodus narrative itself we see that the descendants of Abraham did not have unconditional title to the land God had promised them. Implicit in the promise was that the Jewish people must live up to their end of the bargain or face exile, or, as in the case of Moses and the generation that was delivered from Egypt, not be allowed to enter the land at all. While God promised that they would one day have the land as an everlasting possession, this did not abrogate God’s demand that Israel can only occupy the land while they are living up to their covenantal responsibilities. The Holy land was not simply a homeland. Just as the High Priest had an entitlement once a year to enter the inner most sanctum or the temple (the Holy of Holies) this did not mean he had license to do what ever he wanted while there. He had a strict mandate that carried dire consequences if ignored. God was not “playing around or joking” about the severity of His demands for Israel as they were soon to find out. Nowhere in scripture has God’s demand that Israel can only have legitimate access to Israel-Palestine as a consequence of obedience to the Torah been revoked.

Nowhere in scripture are the Jewish people given license to mistreat non-Jews in the land in order to simply increase Jewish holdings in the land of promise. The inhabitants of Canaan previous to Joshua were not expelled simply because they were in the way of Jewish occupation of the land. Rather God had waited 400 years before expelling them for their own sins. Implicit in these scriptures is that it would have been wrong for God to expell the Canaanites just to make way for the Jewish people (regardless of the promises He made to Abraham) if they had not piled their own sins up to the heavens first.God would not dispossess anyone just for the sake of making way for the descendants of Abraham.

After the exile of Israel in 586 BC, the “second Exodus” occurred only when acknowledged prophets of God let it be known that it was OK to return. Laws about the treatment of non-Jews who had moved into the land while they were in exile are of profound importance to this discussion:

“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.” (Ezek 47:21-23)

The Jewish people are a people in Exile. No theologically Orthodox Jew anywhere in the world believes that the Exile is over regardless of the status of Zionist Israel. In a personal letter from an Orthodox Rabbi, he said, in response to my claim that Orthodox Jews believe the exile to be still on:

” … you said that “Virtually every Orthodox Jew on earth agrees to the fact that the exile of the Jewish people has not ended. The exile is a spiritual problem and cannot be solved by nuclear arsenals or secular European colonialist ideologies” is absolutely true and I don’t see why any Jew had a problem with it. Every Orthodox Jew, even the Zionist settlers, fasts on Tisha B’av, the Jewish day of mourning for the Temple and the exile, which will be abolished when our redemption comes. Every Orthodox Jew recites the prayers that say, “Because of our sins we were exiled from our land.” (personal communication with Rabbi E. Beck)

Zionist ideology stands outside the covenental responsibilities of the Jewish People while in the land. As such the Jewish people are facing sanctions by God if they do not repent. Rather than egging the Zionist state on in its Godless treatment of Palestinians, we should be reminding them of their responsibilities to God and the dire consequences they face if they continue to ignore them.

The purpose of God’s promises was to “Bless all families of the Earth”, not give legitimization to secular nationalism. God’s desire was that Israel not be “as the nations.”, exactly the opposite of Zionist aspirations for their state today. Christians do not support  an ethic that states that “the ends justify the means”, regardless of God’s plans for the Israeli state today, God never calls us to unconditionally support and endorse a regime that is in specific rebellion to His mandates.

Jesus said,“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) and a century earlier Rabbi Hillel (1st century BC) said:

“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour. That is the whole Torah.”

As is in complete accord with the voices of the prophetic, the sum of the Law and the Prophets is a statement of ethical responsibility. Not the ravings of a Judaic version of Nostradamus. A wise mans once told me…if your eschatology (end times theology) leads you to a view that rejects or even diminishes the ethical demands of God, then your eschatology is the problem, not the ethical demands of God for you towards those who are oppressed and vulnerable in your world.

The minimum requirement of Jewish people to re-enter the land was repentance. There simply is no precedent in scripture for God endorsing a non-repentant Jewish people to take the land legitimately. The Jewish tradition as given by the Three Oaths of the Talmud, also upholds this scriptural legacy as well, if not, even more so. This is why all those of the Christian persuasion who believed in the restoration of Israel in pre-Zionist times demanded that the restoration of Israel could only come after a mass conversion of Jews to Christianity. When the embarrassment of the fact that it was a secular Zionist movement that was charging ahead to colonize Palestine, a quick about face was required by the forerunners of today’s Christian Zionists.

One of Darby’s disciples, W.E. Blackstone, makes an interesting point about the Zionists:

“The Zionists have seized the reins and eschewing the help of Abraham’s God they have accepted agnostics as leaders and are plunging madly into this scheme for the erection of a Godless state. But the Bible student will surely say, this godless national gathering of Israel is not the fulfilment of all the glorious restoration, so glowingly described by the prophets. No indeed! ” (Blackstone, 1916, p. 240)

Suddenly those prophets that were telling us that a restoration of Israel was about to occur were now telling us that the Bible predicted the Zionists all along! But the fact is that the Bible will accord no such fantasy. This type of about face has been a regular fixture for the prophets of Christian Zionism. You may have heard of examples of this yourself.

Craig Nielsen

ACTION FOR PALESTINE

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Unconditional Acceptance or Unconditional Support.

Over the course of  the many discussions that I have had with Christian Zionists about the Zionist state of Israel, I have come to believe that one of the major confusions  they have is the difference between unconditional acceptance and unconditional support. Without doubt the scriptures teach that God unconditionally accepted the Jewish people in Old Testament times. Both in the wanderings of Moses generation in the wilderness and during the exile in 586 BC, God was faithful to His covenant promise with the Children of Israel. Yet the very  wanderings in Moses day and the exile in 586 BC point to the undeniable fact that God did not unconditionally support the Hebrews. Both those episodes were instances of God chastising the Jewish people for not living up to their responsibilities in the Mosaic covenant. God did not unconditionally support the Jewish people in the land of Israel anymore than  loving parents as we know them today would support their child regardless of the ethics of that child’s behaviour.

Would any of us, while proclaiming to love our children, support them in their plans to rob or murder? Would we be loving parents if we did? This point may seem trivially obvious but, has somehow become a major stumbling block to the Christian cheer squad of Zionism. If we are convinced that God did not unconditionally support  Israel, how is it that we think that God expects us to condone every action of the Zionist state today? Does God command us to support things that He does not? I think not!

Christian Zionist discussions of the return of the Jewish people to Palestine rarely, if ever, mention the concept of exile in a Biblical manner. Exile occurs due to the sins of the Jewish people and is a spiritual problem. To return from exile can only occur if God has declared that the purpose of the exile is over. A famous Jewish Rabbi, Joseph Haim Sonnenfeld (1848 – 1932) said:

“God has exiled us on account of our sins, and exile is a hospital for the Jewish people. It is inconceivable that we take control of our land before we are completely cured. We are certain that when we are healed of our sins, God will not hesitate for a moment, and will deliver us Himself. How could we be in such haste to leave hospital in the face of mortal danger, a world wide danger that hangs over our heads, God forbid?”

Christian Zionists pay no heed to the warnings of scripture and Jewish tradition that tell Jews not to try and end the exile themselves. The creation of the Zionist state in 1948 or General Allenby’s entrance to Jerusalem in December of 1917 in no way declare the exile to be over according to the Bible or Orthodox Jewish theological tradition. In Old Testament times, entrance to Israel by the Jewish people was always accompanied by prophets of the caliber of Moses, Ezra and Nehemiah. Only the word of God, spoken with authority by His prophets was good enough to give the Jewish people confidence to come out of exile and re-enter the Promised Land. The question could rightly be asked, “By whose authority can we say that the exile is over?’ The very existence of the Oaths of the Talmud imply t that the Jewish people themselves have the responsibility not to try and re-enter the land without God’s blessing. The partial success of the Zionists in retaking the land of Israel is no more an automatic sign of God’s endorsement of Zionism than the existence of mega churches is a sign of God’s endorsement of the theology of the Pastors of those congregations.

Over half the Jewish population choose not to live in Israel despite the financial incentives that the Zionists offer. Hundreds of thousands of strictly observant (haredi) Jews do not believe that the exile is over either. The more land the state of Israel takes from the Palestinians, the more tenuous the hold the Israelis have on their own territory. The occupation of the West Bank is a sickness of the state of Israel. It sucks the spiritual life out of the Jews of Israel, brutalizing everyone touched by it.

Unconditional support is the last thing that Israel needs. Like any rebellious child, the state of Israel needs rigorously enforced boundaries to live in spiritual health and well being.

Craig Nielsen

ACTION FOR PALESTINE

The Lord hears the cry of the Palestinian people.

As a Bible believing Christian I find the anti-BDS sentiment of so called journalists like Greg Sheridan and Andrew Bolt to be based in nothing but European supremacist, pro-colonialist bigotry. The media representation of what the BDS campaign is all about is reprehensible to anyone who knows anything at all about the movement.

The BDS program against the Zionist state was called for by 170 civil Palestinian organisations in 2005 as a non-violent means to pursue the cause for self determination and justice for the Palestinian people by putting economic pressure on the state of Israel to align itself with international law regarding its behaviour and policies towards the Palestinian people. The goal of the BDS movement is not necessarily aligned with either a one or two state solution. At all levels, the BDS movement recognises the right of the state of Israel to exist with secure and safe borders. A right acknowledged by Yasser Arafat in 1993 but never reciprocated by the Israeli government to this day.

The western media has no complaint with sanctions against those nations that don’t “play ball” with us, regardless of the fact that, in Iraq for example, thousands of children suffer and die as a result. But when it comes to countries that are aligned with us, even the slightest hint of sanctions against them is met with almost hysterical cries of racist and terrorist motivations, regardless of the fact that, as in the case of Israel, the nation is guilty of more violations of International law than all the Arab/Muslim nations put together. We can bomb Iraq to the ground (killing hundreds of thousands) on the faulty premise that it had weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda when in fact it did not and our leaders had access to (or could have easily gained access to) information to the contrary. We can do these things without the slightest pang of conscience or pain of remembrance because our media and our leaders do not allow them to be part of our remembrance. They are not worthy victims; they are not worthy of our grief or sorrow let alone remorse. they are not us, they are them.

To the opponents of the BDS movement, the only true course for the Palestinian people is to either self dispossess from their homeland or be complicit with the illegal military occupation of the West Bank and the siege of Gaza. The refugees that live outside of Israel-Palestine should just “get over it”. Those who oppose the BDS movement deny the Palestinian people any means to fight for their rights to self determination at all. They must in effect become Zionists or suffer the consequences. The anti-BDS proponents demonise all Palestinian resistance. They condemn Palestinians as terrorists if they resist with violence or condemn them as anti-Semites if they resist non violently as is the case with the BDS campaign. They demand that the game be played in such a way that “heads Israel wins, tails the Palestinians lose”.

John Pilger puts a far more correct spin on the BDS campaign when he says in support of the BDS movement:

“Sometimes, looked at from the outside, Australia is a strange place. In other ‘western democracies’ the ‘debate’ about the enduring injustice dealt the Palestinians and Israel’s lawlessness has moved forward to the point where the cynical campaign of anti-Semitism smears is no longer effective — in the UK, much of Europe and even the United States.
If Israel’s bloody assault on Lebanon was not the turning point, the criminal attack on the imprisoned population of Gaza certainly was. The same is true of the BDS movement. This eminently reasonable, decent and necessary campaign enjoys a respectability across the world, not least in South Africa, where it’s backed by the likes of Desmond Tutu and especially those Jews who fought the apartheid regime. The University of Johannesburg, the country’s biggest, has just broken all ties with Israel. Justice for Palestine, said, Mandela, is ‘the greatest moral issue of our time’. That’s the company those Marrickville councillors who have stood up for this ‘greatest moral issue’, keep. And those who have wavered and walked away should think again – remembering other waverers who, long ago, walked away from speaking out against what was being done to Jews. The scale is very different; the principle is the same. Do not be intimidated by Murdoch vendettas or by anyone else. All power to you.”

John Pilger

The words of the Torah cry out to all Christians, Muslims and Jews.

“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 God of the Old Testament cries out in dozens of verses in the Torah for Jews to reach out beyond the bounds of hatred, racism and bigotry; to take hold of the hands of the oppressed and the alien just as God reached out to them when they were helpless in Egypt, suffering under the oppression of Pharaoh.

The BDS movement will be heard in heaven, of that we can be assured. God’s promise to hear the cry of the oppressed in Israel should send shudders up the spine of those who arrogantly deny the right of the Palestinian people to be heard. The words of Jesus ring in our ears as well:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)

Jesus care and concern for the marginalised and demonized in His time reflect the love of God for all humanity. His special concern for those at the “bottom” is a perfect reflection of God the Father’s heart towards Jew and non-Jew.

The gospel of Christian Zionism is not a gospel of Good News to Palestinians be they Christian, Muslim or secular. It is not really a gospel of Good News to anyone whose heart rejoices at the news of God’s reconciliation of all humanity to Himself.

The BDS movement affirms the right of Jewish people to live anywhere in the world (not just in Israel) in peace and equality with all peoples, free from racial and religious bigotry. The BDS movement wishes for exactly the same right for Palestinians. As such, the morality of the movement matches the morality of the God of both Testaments of the Bible. Anti-BDS supporters reject the concept of equality for Jew and non-Jew in Israel and the occupied territories. As such, they align themselves with the powers already defeated on the cross of Jesus some 2,000 years ago. Justice and equality for all in the Holy land is the ultimate goal of the Lord God and the BDS movement. That is why I endorse and am involved in it.

The New Testament affirms to Christians that both Jesus and Moses concur about justice and equality in all the world. Religious nationalism, self righteousness and hatred will be swept away, once and for all. this is the true hope that lies at the heart of all truly Biblically based doctrines of Eschatology.

Craig Nielsen
ACTION FOR PALESTINE

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.

Craig Nielsen
ACTION FOR PALESTINE

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”.

Craig Nielsen

ACTION FOR PALESTINE

Israel-Palestine: A Christian Response to the Conflict

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