If you have grown up in an American Evangelical culture, no doubt your view of the Israeli-Palestinian Crisis is that Israel can do no wrong, and all the Palestinians are fanatical Muslims. The problem, of course, is that is completely wrong. The reason why so many Evangelicals in America tend to think that, though, is because men like John Hagee, Tim LaHaye, and Hal Lindsey have taught some very wrong things. Now, like I said in my previous post, I support Israel, and I do think the primary root of the problem does fall in the lap of groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. BUT…the fact is that Israel is not guiltless. The average Palestinian civilian has gotten horribly short-changed from everyone. The maps I’ve included show confusing the conflict is.
The Plight of the Palestinians
Now, the purpose of this post is not to give a full analysis of the history of the conflict. My purpose is simply to show how complex the situation has always been, and how dangerous it is to blindly and completely take one side over the other. In any case, here are some items I learned from the book, From the Holy Mountain. Obviously, I cannot verify every single claim, but it is worth putting out there to foster discussion.
- As of the early 1990s, around 150 exclusively Jewish settlements have been established in the conquered territory (about 280,000 Israeli settlers).
- The Palestinians under Israeli occupation are forbidden to own weapons of any sort, cannot vote in Israeli elections and are subject to the arbitrary and dismissive verdicts of military courts.
- “The Israelis are always insisting on the uniqueness of their Holocaust. Now it seems they want our genocide to be forgotten. It is as if they want a monopoly on suffering. In a million little ways, the Israelis make life difficult for us. Many of my people believe they want to squeeze us out” (312).
- “Under an Israeli Supreme Court ruling, non-Jews are excluded from the Jewish Quarter, and all Arab residents there in 1967 were evicted from it. At the same time, on 10 June 1967, the entire Maghariba (Moors’) district was demolished to create a plaza around the Wailing Wall. The area dated back to the fourteenth century, and included a mosque and shrine of Sheikh A’id; but despite their antiquity the 135 buildings in the district were bull-dozed and the 650 Palestinians who lived there were expelled from their homes. Yet while all the two thousand Jews who had lost property there in 1948 had their land restored, none of the thirty thousand Palestinians evicted from the Christian suburbs of West Jerusalem in 1948 were allowed to return to their old homes, nor was any reverse law promulgated to prevent Jews from settling in the Christian, Armenian, and Muslim Quarters of the Old City” (312-313).
- “The Israelis claim that they are champions of religious freedom, but behind that smokescreen they make it impossible for our [Palestinian-Christian] community to flourish” (314).
- If an Israeli is stabbed, Israeli police randomly arrest 500 non-Jewish boys, beat them, and make them stand all day in the sun without water.
- In 1922, 52% of the population of the Old City of Jerusalem had been Christian; by the early 1990s Christians made up a mere 2.5% of the population.
- In 1922, Christians made up 10% of British Mandate Palestine. They were wealthier and better educated than their Muslim counterparts, “owned almost all the newspapers and filled a disproportionate number of senior jobs in the Mandate Civil Service” (316).
- During the events of 1948, “in the fighting some 55,000 Palestinian Christians—around 60% of the total community—fled or were driven from their homes, along with around 650,000 Muslim Palestinians” (317).
- “After the Israeli conquest and occupation of the West Bank during the Six Day War (1967), a second exodus took place: between 1967-1992 around 40% of the Christians then in the Occupied Territories—a further 19,000 men, women, and children—left their homes to look for better lives elsewhere. Christians now make up less than a quarter of one percent of the population of Israel and the West Bank” (317).
- Within ten years of the Israeli conquest of East Jerusalem, 37,065 acres of Arab land [that is, both Christian and Muslim Palestinian] had been confiscated and settled; today only 13.5% of East Jerusalem remains in Palestinian hands” (318).
You get the picture…it causes one to rethink the whole “Israeli-Palestinian” thing, doesn’t it? One thing is for certain: the “blind allegiance to Israel because they are God’s people” mentality of John Hagee is not only biblically ignorant, but it actually is endorsing and promoting the destruction of the Christian culture that has been in Palestine for the past 2,000 years. Let’s face it, Hagee and his followers have probably never even considered the fact that many Palestinians were actually Christians!
A Few More Historical Factors to Consider
That being said though, a few other historical factors have to be taken into consideration:
- The impetus for the state of Israel was actually not the Holocaust. The Balfour declaration back in 1918 already spoke of creating a state of Israel, side by side with a state of Palestine. Nevertheless, the Holocaust was no doubt the event that spurred the UN to go ahead and get it done. But now, I have to wonder: was the UN’s establishment of the state of Israel solely because Europe felt bad for the Jews and wanted to, “do the Jews a favor,” or was it also fuelled by an anti-Semitic feeling that said, “Let’s just get these Jews out of our hair?” Given the obviously racist-colonialistic mentality of an Enlightenment-inspired Europe, I think both things, the Holocaust and European antisemitism, hand a hand in it. After all, it was Britain—a horrifically racist empire who viewed all non-Europeans as beneath them, and who practiced horrible racism from South Africa to India—who basically said, “Okay, we’ve got this land in Palestine, let’s just take a portion and give it to the Jews (who likes them anyway?) and let those other Palestinians (they’re Semitic too!) have what’s left over!” Britain, and the UN, probably didn’t really care about these groups…they weren’t European.
- Both before and after the establishment of the state of Israel, though, it is equally clear that there was a clear anti-Jewish attitude by many Muslim leaders of the time. The Nazi Grand Mufti of Jerusalem is a clear example of this. As soon as there was even talk of giving Jews a homeland, the annihilation of any Jewish state was a priority for the Arab-Muslim world.
- The Grand Mufti had, in fact, promised the Palestinians that if they fled their homes that they would get them back once he and this Arab friends (Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon) wiped the Jews out. And so, some Palestinians chose to leave. At the same time, despite the fact that Israel maintains that it was ready to offer full citizenship to any Palestinians who stayed, the fact is that was an outright lie. Sure, Israel might not have rounded up Palestinians and killed them in mass, but they certainly forced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians out of their homes, confiscated their belongings, and gave the property to Jews. Simply put, they stole Palestinian property. Even after that, with the Palestinians who still stayed, Israel reduced them to the status of second-class citizens and systematically took more and more Palestinian land and property, little by little.
Simply put, the Palestinians were abused by everyone: the UN who never even considered their human rights when it helped establish the state of Israel; the surrounding Arab leaders who stirred up even more anti-Semitism, encouraged the Palestinians to leave their homes, and then openly attacked Israel as soon as it was established; and finally Israel, who actively expelled the Palestinians from their lands and homes, who continued to steal Palestinian land, and who still make it a point to make the lives of the Palestinians in Israel so bad that they want to leave Israel. By insisting on a purely “Jewish State,” Israel is in danger of becoming just as much of a racist state as Nazi Germany was. Sure, one can point out that Israel never threw Palestinians into ovens; but they did throw them out of their land, nonetheless.
What Can Be Done?
But here is where things get, not just complicated, but outright impossible. What can be done?
- The fact is that for the past 60 years Jews have settled in the land. An entire generation of Jews call Israel their homeland and know nothing else. Calling for the dissolution of the state of Israel is insane and inhumane.
- Still, the Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza and the West Bank are inhumane in and of themselves. Furthermore, Palestinian leaders like Yasser Arafat and Hamas have proven beyond a shadow of doubt that their goal has never been peace with Israel, but rather the annihilation of it. Therefore, given the Arab attacks of 1948, the Six Day War of 1967, the Yom Kippur War of 1973, and the infinite number of suicide bombers and rocket attacks coming from Gaza, I can understand why Israel is—call it for what it is—paranoid about the Palestinians.
- Nevertheless, the treatment of Palestinian civilians—not the extremist groups, but real civilians—by Israel is deplorable. Israel’s actions, although obviously not the root cause of Arab aggression (for that happened before the State of Israel did anything), certainly have added fuel to the fire. Palestinians who have been kicked out and had their land confiscated deserve it back.
Blind allegiance to Israel is a horrific mistake—ignoring the inhumane treatment of the Palestinians by Israel is deplorable. At the same time, blind allegiance to the Palestinians is also problematic—their leaders are violent extremists and cannot be trusted. But groups like Hamas and Hezbollah were born out of the injustices Israel inflicted on the Palestinians. It’s a vicious cycle.
In light of all this, someone needs to just say it: the hope for a “two-state solution” is a pipe dream. It will never work. So what can be done? Looking back before the conflict, it was obvious that Christians, Muslims, and Jews were for the most part able to live together. What ticked the Palestinians off was a combination of two things: (a) the UN simply took some of their land and gave it to (b) European Jews who weren’t even really Middle Eastern. Seriously, how would we Americans feel if the European Union somehow took the entire middle section of the United States—from North Dakota to Texas, from Missouri to Colorado—and established a “state of the Ming Dynasty” where any Asian could simply just immigrate and take land away from any American? I don’t think we’d allow it. In fact, I’m pretty sure we’d go to war over it.
Given that example, I’m starting to see that the reason for the Palestinian/Arab hatred of Israel isn’t just the fact that they are Jews—it’s also a hatred of “the West” imposing their culture and values on them. Again, what if the “State of the Ming Dynasty” was established, and any American still living in that territory had to start following Confucianism or Taoism, and even then find him/herself treated as a second class citizen, and their families regulated to refugee camps in a thin strip of wasteland somewhere in Nebraska? We would not be happy.
So again, I ask, “What can be done?” I think this whole mess isn’t the fault of Christianity, or Islam, or Judaism. Ultimately, the fault lies at the doorstep of Enlightenment-minded European colonialism. It has always been incredibly racist and imperialistic, and too often, such nationalism often blurred the distinction between the Christian Gospel of Christ and the nationalistic love of Britain, or France, or Europe in general. Therefore, the idea that “We can work it out if we are just reasonable” is not only hopelessly delusional, it is the epitome of Enlightenment arrogance.
That being said, there’s only one thing that even has the remotest possibility of working. First, Europe and America needs to acknowledge that they played a major part in screwing over, not just the Jews historically, but also the Palestinians recently. Secondly, Israel should offer full citizenship to all Palestinians in the refugee camps Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon, and, as much as possible, return the land they stole from the Palestinians. Thirdly, Israel should unilaterally allow Palestinian Christians and Muslims a place within the government. Fourthly (admittedly for cosmetic-sake), the name of the nation should be changed to something like “Israel-Palestine.” Simply put, there should be one state consisting of Jews, Christians, and Muslims—it should not be a “Jewish State” or “Christian State” or “Islamic State.”
Now is this realistic? Given the current climate, of course not. In fact, the only way that could happen is, in my opinion, by a move of God—only the love that comes from Christ could ever accomplish such a thing. A European-enlightenment mindset, a Jewish-Zionist movement, and an extremist Islamic terrorist agenda simply will add up to endless bloodshed, bigotry, hatred, and death. It is only the love of Christ that can heal the wounds of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. My proposed solution requires a huge leap of faith. And, just as Paul says in Romans, the kind of faith that saves—both the individual from his/her sins, and entire people groups from national and cultural annihilation—is the faith in the God who can bring life from the dead: be it Isaac from Sarah’s dead womb, Christ from a dead tomb, or a living and unified people of God from the death and destruction of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.