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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.

Craig Nielsen

Israel-Palestine: A Christian Response to the Conflict

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May 2023