I was recently asked what I would do about the ongoing war between Israel and the Palestinians given that Israel is in a fight for its life and has been under near constant attack by Hamas in the Gaza Strip and threat of annihilation by her neighbors. After doing some research it seems to me the ones fighting for their lives are the vastly outgunned and continually oppressed and terrorized Palestinians, not the Israelis. It seems every criticism we could give to Hamas in Gaza we can level at Israel – times ten.
The Onus of Change Rests With the Israeli Government
I’ve been told that I need to be balanced and present the atrocities committed by both sides but after doing my due diligence it’s clear to me the onus for change rests squarely with the party that holds all the cards, the one which can make a real difference. To fault Hamas while not expecting any change from Israel is straining out a gnat while swallowing a camel. Given the degree of temerity by Israel that goes unnoticed by Americans I believe the Palestinian side of the story is the story that needs to be heard. As Rush Limbaugh would say, “I don’t want to be balanced. I AM the balance.”
Before I get into what I would do about Israel, a little bit of background so you can see why I came to my conclusions. The video above shows a very small portion of the destruction done by the Israelis just prior to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent re-election. Please keep in mind much of the destruction you see was done by American supplied smart bombs being dropped from American supplied F-16’s in response to home-made non-precision (dumb) rockets fired from Gaza which usually end up falling on corn fields in Israel.
Gaza is a small strip of land on the Mediterranean coast that is about seven miles wide and twenty miles long that houses nearly two million Palestinians. They are mostly Muslim but also include a few Jewish and Christian communities. It has the population density of London while the Israeli land surrounding it is mostly beautiful farmland.
Some liken Gaza to one giant refugee camp or outdoor prison. Or a concentration camp.
Some Historical Background for Context
In 1948 a new nation of Israel was carved out of Palestinian territory but the West Bank and Gaza were not included and remained Palestinian territories.
The people of Gaza have never had their own country – ever. They were ruled by the Romans, then the Turkish Ottomans, then the British via the Palestinian Mandate, a responsibility awarded to them by the League of Nations as the spoils of war of WW1. For about one year they did have semi-independence, but were then ruled by their southern neighbors the Egyptians through a military occupation similar to how Israel rules the area today. Then Israel took opportunity to do some land grabbing in 1967 after an unjustified surprise invasion of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
For Israel this was a bit of unfinished business after a furious Republican President Eisenhower ordered Israel to withdraw from Egypt in 1956, along with England and France who had also invaded, or face serious crippling economic sanctions and the threat of our navy’s 6th Fleet in the eastern Mediterranean. During the Six Day War land grab in 1967 Israel ended up tripling the real estate they had owned up to that point, taking all of the land owned by Palestinians. The international community managed to persuade Israel to once again vacate the Sinai Peninsula but they did not give up the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the prime real estate of the Golan Heights. They did not return most of the land gained through military conquest though the international community has declared such land confiscation to be illegal. They also drove 400,000 refugees into neighboring countries while those who decided to stick around to see what would happen next found themselves in Israel’s refugee camp for Palestinians.
“Refugee camp” is a bit of a stretch. I’ve been in a refugee camp in a poor country and they had it better than the Palestinians have it now. The refugees I met in former Yugoslavia were at least allowed to educate their children.
Why Palestine Hates Israel
Today, Israel continues to maintain control over Gaza including controlling their air and maritime space, controlling six of Gaza’s seven land crossings (Egypt controls the seventh), reserving the right to reenter Gaza at will through regular military incursions which they do frequently, maintaining a no-go buffer zone within the Gaza territory, and maintaining Gaza’s dependence on Israel for trade, water, electricity, currency, communication networks, issuing IDs, and permits to enter and leave the territory, and to start a business (which are routinely denied). At times they have not been permitted to educate their children. At least the Palestinians don’t have to get permission to take a dump, but they do depend on the Israelis for the sewer system it goes into. Israel even administers 58% of the West Bank but controls who leads the Fatah run Palestinian Authority which has varying degrees of autonomous rule over the other 42%. Israel also controls who represents the residents of the Gaza Strip which is Hamas, so it’s a bit disingenuous for Israel to complain about Palestinian leadership. They purposely allow leadership they think are most likely to give them a reason to retaliate.
Israel has been called the only true democracy in the Middle East but Israel has in essence annexed the Palestinian Territories yet without giving any of them rights of citizenship such as voting for the leaders of Israel. I say “in essence,” because it hasn’t been done officially. Official annexation won’t happen until Jews can maintain a majority should the international community pressure the government to grant voting rights to everyone.
Until then the Palestinians are a part of that country yet denied any say in government, are not allowed to exercise freedom of speech by holding peaceful rallies, do not receive the same access to medical care, and have had their economy systematically sabotaged by the Israelis. In other words Israel is not a democracy at all. Since they have complete control of the Palestinian Occupied Territories it’s an apartheid state similar to South Africa before the international community pressured the minority whites to relinquish control and give the blacks full rights as citizens.
In the West Bank movement of Palestinians is severely restricted by hundreds of permanent and roving checkpoints manned by heavily armed young Israeli soldiers who can detain and deny passage for any reason or no reason at all, depending on their mood. Human rights groups have documented many cases of detention abuses. Even ambulances are detained causing deaths. Between June 2003 and February 2004, 46 women delivered their babies at checkpoints – 24 of the women and 27 newborns died as a result.
Israel had backed out of Gaza to some degree but imposed a blockade to punish the newly elected Hamas regime in 2007 which is still in effect. Yes, the ones Israel allowed to be elected in the first place. Items that have at various times for “security reasons” been denied importation into Gaza include jam, razor blades, light bulbs, candles, matches, books, musical instruments, crayons, shoes, mattresses, sheets, blankets, pasta, margarine, canned food, coffee, chocolate, nuts, food wrappers, fishing rods, coriander, sage, vinegar, biscuits, potato chips, baby formula, wheat grain, shampoo, plaster, tarpaulin sheets for huts, irrigation pipes, gas for soft drinks, size A4 paper, buttons, cosmetics, toys, newspapers, industrial salts, food flavoring, and livestock such as chickens, donkeys, and cows.
As blockades tend to do they do little to persuade governments but instead punish the people. Blockades are actually intended to impoverish the people so the people will turn against their government but they rarely do. Instead they create solidarity of the people against the nations imposing the embargo.
Did you notice they denied them pasta? I think deprivation of lasagna would put any group of people on edge and make them one with whoever in their country happens to be advocating for the people at the time, even if it’s Hamas.
The Myth of Self-Defense
Israel justifies the devastation in the video above as necessary for self-defense from rocket fire. Even though American politicians buy into this claim it is bogus for a number of factual and legal reasons:
- It was Israel that initiated air and ground attacks on Gaza and the West Bank – a large scale invasion – prior to the rocket attacks, and during a cease-fire agreement with Hamas. A cease-fire agreement that Hamas honored.
- During a 20 month cease fire agreement in which zero Hamas rockets were being fired at Israel the number of Palestinians who were killed by Israeli forces were 41 victims in circumstances where no threats were posed to the lives of Israeli soldiers. This number includes six children and two women. In 2013, 496 Palestinians sustained various wounds, including 142 children and 10 women. In the first quarter of 2014 alone 198 Palestinians were wounded during peaceful protests and clashes with Israeli forces.
- A bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza did not curtail rocket attacks but actually sparked a vast increase, as anyone should have predicted and as has happened several times before. History has proven the best way to curtail rocket attacks is to have a cease fire (which they had for 20 months with no Hamas attacks), and for the Israelis to honor that cease fire. It worked in both 2009 and 2012. Hamas was even policing the rogue non-Hamas groups attempting to shoot rockets while Israel was egregiously violating their agreement. The American press always portrays Netanyahu as the patient martyr while the facts show he is the aggressor terrorist and it is Hamas that demonstrates restraint while they are being bombed, Israeli propaganda notwithstanding.
- Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu admitted to military goals that had nothing to do with stopping rocket fire.
- The devastation of complete neighborhoods makes it clear that specific rocket firing attackers were not targeted or that they were trying to curtail future attempts at rocket attacks. On the contrary, their motive was retribution and punishment, not defense.
- Even if the facts had been different, international law regarding self-defense is not applicable to an occupying power, such as Israel in Gaza. The law does not recognize an occupying powers right to self-defense. They get what’s coming to them, in other words. If the ever-polite Canadians ever flipped and decided to invade and occupy Washington State we would have every right to fight back and the Canadians would have no legal right under international rule to bombard our neighborhoods. Canadian leadership in such a case could be dragged before an international war crimes tribunal just like the Nazis were. It’s no different with Israel occupying their neighbors.
The above should also lead us to believe the Israeli government was not defending its people but initiated and escalated attacks in the West Bank and Gaza to accomplish military and political objectives, which seemed to have worked since Netanyahu recently won re-election in a tough race. He knew a heavy-handed, and immoral, response to the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers would bring about a response from Hamas and give him all the more reason to escalate the conflict so he could be seen as being the hard line (read that, revengeful) leader that would put him in good standing with his electorate.
Hey, I realize it’s a lot to expect non-Christians to act like Christians, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask for Christians in America to stop supporting him and look beyond the propaganda they heard when he recently addressed Congress.
The Myth that Palestine Was an Empty Wasteland
There are a couple of false narratives that are still taught to Israeli school children and believed by a few people outside of Israel. One is that Palestine was a “land without people waiting for a people without land”, a slogan used by Christian clergy before the rise of the secular Zionism movement in the 1890’s, while in reality the Palestinians were already enjoying a thriving cultural, social, and economic life. The fact 700,000 Palestinians were displaced in 1948 and had to find another place to live disproves any idea of it having ever been empty land. Yes, the area did receive quite a number of Arab immigrants after the Israelis started showing up in significant numbers in the 1880’s but historical records show clearly there was a thriving metropolitan Arab populace in Palestine before that.
The reason Palestine is characterized as an empty wasteland which the Jews occupied is to give the impression that nobody should have cared if they had unless they were just anti-Semitic. I would agree that arrangement worked out fine given the conditions of the land which the Jews purchased. They typically bought the cheaper plots unsuitable for raising corn and which did not have tenants who need to be displaced. It was win-win for everyone involved.
So what happened?
Why and When Zionism Became the Problem
After the 1871 Odessa pogrom, Judah Leib Pinsker published a pamphlet, Auto-Emancipation, arguing that Jews could only be truly free in their own country.
For the first 20 years of the influx of Russian Jews into Palestine after the czarist pogroms beginning in 1882 the majority of the Jews fled to America and 70% of those who came to Palestine ended up moving to America because of the lack of work for them in Palestine. It was not a huge influx and for the most part the Arabs welcomed them. The first formally recorded act of opposition and protest to Jewish immigration occurred in 1891. By the year 1897 98% of the land was still owned by Arabs who comprised about 90% of the population.
For Theodor Herzl, considered the father of modern Zionism, the arrangement he saw in 1896 could only last so long. At some point the numbers of Jews would be such that they would overstay their welcome, so to speak, and the only way to ensure the rights and safety of the Jews was to establish a Jewish state. At that time Herzl wrote Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), a pamphlet that called for political recognition of a Jewish homeland in the area then known as Palestine.
In 1897, Herzl organized the First Zionist Congress, which met in Basel, Switzerland. He also formed and became the first president of the World Zionist Organization. What Herzl was suggesting amounted to an apartheid state with the minority Jews in control. In 1899, Mayor of Jerusalem Youssuf Zia Khalidi, a Palestinian scholar and a member of the Ottoman Parliament, wrote a letter that was later forwarded to Herzl that warned against Zionist claims to Palestine. Palestinians were particularly resentful of Zionism’s assertion that Jews had a right to Palestine because they had once lived there two thousand years earlier.
Do you see a problem here?
When the Jewish people achieved sovereignty in 1948 and had military might, the conquest of land replaced buying it.
The Goal of Dispossessing the Arabs Began Early in the Zionist Movement
As for dispossessing the Arabs (a polite way to say, “Get rid of them”), the Middle East Policy Council writes:
For many years the early Zionists clung to the belief that the Palestinians could be replaced by the expedient of denying them work. This was obvious to outside observers, such as the U.S. King-Crane Commission, which issued its report on Palestine in 1919: “The fact came out repeatedly in the commission’s conference with Jewish representatives that the Zionists looked forward to a practically complete dispossession of the present non Jewish inhabitants of Palestine by various forms of purchase.” It added that non-Jews represented “nearly nine-tenths of the whole.”
The campaign to evict the Palestinian farmers was done in the name of Labor Zionism.
As late as the 1929 constitution of the Jewish Agency, the goals of Labor Zionism were embraced in an article decreeing that only Jewish labor could be hired on land owned by the Jewish National Fund.
Just as Herzl had early dreamed, [the Arab peasants] became “penniless” and ripe for migration.
The program eventually came under criticism as being intrinsically racist. Historian Arnold Toynbee joined other critics, charging in 1931 that Labor Zionism was creating “an exclusive preserve for the Jews, what in South Africa is called segregation.” Others called it “economic apartheid.”36
Ultimately, Labor Zionism failed. Not only did it increasingly tarnish Zionism’s humane face, it never achieved its most important goal-to displace the Palestinians.
The Myth That the Jews Just React to Palestinian Aggression
Another myth is that Palestinians became terrorists first when Jews started arriving from Europe and Russia in the 1880’s. After all, that’s just what Muslims do, right? In reality the Palestinians, as is usual for Arab people, were very hospitable and welcoming to their new guests, poor guests at that, and did not start a resistance until it became evident that these new guests were not satisfied with just being guests but sought to own the land, and own it exclusively at the expense of whomever happened to be in their way. Though Palestinian efforts at resistance haven’t always been honorable, no one should deny them the moral legitimacy of their resistance to foreigners occupying and taking over their land. Or rejecting the many unreasonable “offers” by the international community that dehumanize them and don’t respect their rights to self-determination.
The United Nations decision in 1948 to give the Jews, who were one third of the population, two thirds of the land, was never a fair deal for the Palestinians. Would have Americans sat idly by if millions of Jews flooded into the States in the 18th century (which did happen after 1882 – America received way more than Palestine) and a United Nations gave them 8 of the 13 American colonies?
We should not demand more of a people than we are willing to demand of ourselves.
The results of the bombardment seen in the video at the top was part of a military offensive that started in the summer of 2014 when on June 12 three Jewish teenagers were abducted while hitch-hiking. Israelis were told by Netanyahu’s government that they were launching Operation Bring Back Our Brothers without being told that the three teenagers were probably dead based on the gun shots heard on the emergency call from one of them and blood stains and bullet shells found in a burned out car at the scene.
Under Netanyahu Israel deployed 2500 troops and invaded the West Bank on June 13 to “bring the three Israeli teenagers home safely and as soon as possible,” as described by Brig. Gen. Moti Almoz. Prime Minister Netanyahu admitted in a speech on July 4 that “in Gaza we hit dozens of Hamas activities and destroyed outposts and facilities that served Hamas terrorists,” thus showing the real purpose of the invasion had nothing to do with rocket fire or kidnapped teenagers. What they ended up doing was break up the unity government between Hamas and Fatah and arrested 150 Palestinians, mostly Hamas members, including their parliamentary speaker.
The boys’ bodies were found on June 30. Hamas did not claim involvement in the kidnapping, yet in the week prior to the kidnapping in the West Bank Israeli forces wounded nine Palestinian civilians, including a child. Eight of them were wounded during peaceful demonstrations and the ninth one was wounded when Israeli forces moved into Al-‘Arroub refugee camp, north of Hebron.
Up to this point, with Hamas still honoring a previous cease-fire agreement and Israel bombing the Gaza Strip, the straw that broke the camel’s back for Hamas was the killing of several Hamas officials during one of Israel’s bombing attacks. This was answered by the first rocket fire from Gaza as a means to bring international pressure to bear to lift Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, end Israel’s offensive, release Palestinian prisoners and overcome its political isolation at the hands of the Israelis.
One reason for Israel’s claims to self-defense is to deflect criticism from its many war crimes and human rights abuses. War-crimes allegations have come from such respected sources as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the United Nations Human Rights Council, the National Lawyers Guild, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Pervasive self-defense claims against rocket fire have been crucial to Israeli political and military leaders maintaining impunity and avoiding accountability for their periodic assaults on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza.
The United States government gives Israel weapons of defense, such as F-16 and the bombs they drop, to the tune of $3 Billion per year. These weapons are used offensively against the Palestinians, whose only weapons of defense are suicide bombers and unguided missiles that usually land in open fields.
Israel has also advanced for propaganda purposes the idea that Israel’s neighbors hate them and are always ready and willing to launch an attack against Israel so they need to continue to occupy the West Bank and the Golan Heights so it can serve as a buffer between them and Jordan and Syria. That might have made sense back in the days when wars were fought with tanks but these days that is specious reasoning for a couple of reasons: 1) A 20 mile buffer serves little purpose against modern warfare. Israel has one of the best trained and armed militaries in the world, overwhelmingly superior to all of their neighbors combined (as has been proven many times). 2) The need for foreign land to aid in self protection does not provide justification for taking it or keeping it. Even Hitler honored Switzerland’s neutrality during WW2 though it would have made a nice asset to his cause. What if during the Cold War when we were afraid of the Soviet military invading over the north polar region – would we have been in the right to invade the southern provinces of Canada to use them for a buffer zone?
Though Hamas has been guilty of international human rights abuses such as killing Gazan civilians and suspected collaborators, harassing journalist, using human shields, firing rockets into Israel and the use of civilian structures and UN facilities for military purposes, Hamas is not the government that is receiving billions of dollars in foreign aid from the United States. Instead, Hamas has been made the scapegoat of the West while Israel has gotten a pass on scrutiny. This is why I am highlighting Israel’s crimes and not Hamas’.
If we can support the cause of the American Revolution where the colonists who didn’t have their own country objected to Taxation Without Representation and resorted to violence to defend themselves against a colonial power then it would be hypocritical of us to not support the cause of the Palestinians in their plight under the hands of the Israelis who want to expand their territory as far as they can get away with. We don’t have to support the violent reprisals of Hamas to support the Palestinians against the Israelis, and I’m not suggesting we do support that violence, but we certainly can support the Palestinian people and stand up against the government of Israel.
Israel has killed far more civilians than Hamas. They have targeted schools, hospitals, mosques, and homes even when there was no evidence of them being used for rocket attacks. They even targeted United Nations Relief and Works Agency schools that were being used to house an estimated 200,000 internally displaced people who had fled Israeli shelling of neighborhoods. 46 civilians and 10 UN staff members were killed during those attacks.
The Rafah shelling in particular was widely criticized, with UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon calling it a “moral outrage and a criminal act”. United Nations members condemned Israeli attacks of UNRWA schools while the US government expressed “extreme concern” over the safety of Palestinian civilians who “are not safe in UN-designated shelters.”
Seriously? Extreme concern? Does the US government not have a moral compass? Our government should be calling them out on their inhumanity.
While the effects of this tit-for-tat war have been minimal on Israel they have been devastating for the Palestinians. Rather than adhering to international law and principles of Just War Theory such as Proportionality, the Israelis have responded with overwhelming force, as has been their stated purpose, in attempts to create terror. Israel has said, in essence, “How dare you rebel against our land-grabbing and apartheid, treating you like the scum of the earth. We will make you Palestinians suffer for what your political leaders are doing and we will bring you to your knees.” It’s a continuing motive as expressed by Defense Minister (and later Prime Minister) Yitzhak Rabin in 1989 as he:
explained to Peace Now leaders that the US had granted Israel time to suppress the Intifada (resistance) by force, diverting attention by meaningless diplomatic maneuvers: ‘The inhabitants of the territories are subject to harsh military and economic pressure,’ Rabin said: ‘in the end, they will be broken’ and will accept Israel’s terms. These policies achieved much success, extended with Rabin’s ‘closure’ of the territories, a crushing blow to the staggering Palestinian economy.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, (OCHA), over 273,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip had been displaced as of July 31, 2014, of whom 236,375 (over eleven percent of the Gazan population) were taking shelter in 88 UNRWA schools. UNRWA exhausted its capacity to absorb displaced persons, and overcrowding in shelters risked the outbreak of epidemics. 1.8 million people were affected by a halt or reduction of the water supply, 138 schools and 26 health facilities were damaged, 872 homes were totally destroyed or severely damaged, and the homes of 5,005 families were damaged and uninhabitable. 20-25% of the homes in Gaza City were damaged while Beit Hanoun had 70% of its housing stock damaged. The whole town is considered uninhabitable.
Throughout the Gaza Strip, people received only 2 hours of electricity per day. Power outage had an immediate effect on the public health situation and reduced water and sanitation services, with hospitals becoming dependent on generators. On September 2, UNRWA reported that 58,217 people were sheltering in 31 of their 150 school buildings. Half a million internally displaced persons were in need of emergency food assistance. 10 out of 26 hospitals closed.
On the night of July 25 Israel’s soldiers loaded and fired pale blue artillery shells that discharged white incendiary rain on Khan Younis, Gaza, in hundreds of phosphorous-impregnated felt wedges as people slept. You can read about the major burns on 3-year old Hamza Mus’ab Almadani’s body. Hamza’s scars are indisputable evidence of Israel’s deliberate war crimes. Hamza’s suffering was deliberately inflicted in 2014 in spite of the 2009 UN Goldstone Report on Israel’s war crimes that condemned its illegal use. Israel is also well aware of “Protocol III of the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons, which prohibits use of the substance as an incendiary weapon against civilian populations and in air attacks against military forces in civilian areas.”
An even more sinister reason for Israel’s war against the Palestinians is given by the Centre for Research on Globalization:
The alarming Israeli documentary, The Lab, by Yotam Feldman exposes the 1.6 million ‘unworthy victims’ are locked in an Israeli military laboratory cage that battle-tests weaponry on Gaza. Billions of international dollars from western defense departments fuel the demand and sanction Israeli atrocities.
A key player in the military industries told me that the operational testing in Gaza of Elbit’s BMS (Battle Management System – a special internet-like system for ground forces), a huge project worth $1 billion, has allowed Elbit to raise its price in a deal signed a year later with Australia. The same goes for Rafael. The company stated openly that it would capitalize on the escalation that preceded operation Pillar of Defense..A salesman for the IAI (Israel Aerospace Industries) told me that assassinations and operations in Gaza bring about an increase of tens of percentage points in company sales.
To boost Israeli arms sales, Palestinian families have suffered three onslaughts of ‘systematic genocide’ wars in 6 years and are condemned to a life that is unnatural, stressful, traumatic waiting for the next Israeli weapons testing that will again turn Gaza into ground zero…
Does any of this raise a red flag about support for Israel?
Instead of hitting just military targets or industry producing weapons the Israelis engaged in an illegal and immoral campaign were 220 factories in various industrial zones were bombed, including a major carpentry enterprise, construction companies, a major biscuit factory, dairy farms and livestock, a candy manufacturer, the orange groves of Beit Hanoun, Gaza’s largest mosques, and several TV stations. Farms, as a consequence of damage or the presence of unexploded ordnance dropped during the conflict, are often inaccessible, and the damage to agriculture was estimated at over $200 million.
While Israel lost a handful of people Israel’s activities in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem resulted in the deaths of 2,314 Palestinians and 17,125 injuries, just in 2014 alone, according to the annual report (pdf) by the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
When our countrymen offer unconditional support for Israel we are not only standing for tyranny and terrorism but standing against a people (the Palestinians) who want nothing more than what we champion in America for all people: freedom, dignity, peace and the opportunity for self-determination.
Israel and the Western press have often said these attacks are necessary evils because Hamas and Israel’s other neighbors have vowed to eliminate the Jewish state. Israel’s neighbors have said this because they see the political state of Israel (not the Israeli people) as a threat to their safety and well-being. They see what they have been doing to the Palestinians and have no reason to believe they won’t make good on what Israelis believe God promised them in the Old Testament which includes ownership of their current land and all of the land of the Palestinians and all of Jordan, plus parts of Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.
Do you see a problem here?
I have even had Christians remind me that those lands were given to Israel by God and it is the Muslims who don’t belong there and if Israel removes them by force it will be God’s doing.
If this sounds like a position held by only the most extreme right wing fanatics then how do we explain Christian Zionist, televangelist, and son-of-a-senator Pat Robertson who recently warned Americans that any attempt by the US to stop the illegal and deadly Israeli occupation of Jerusalem and other Palestinian lands will incur the wrath of God against America and Americans? He urged listeners to instruct their politicians not to demand that Israel pulls back to its pre-1967 borders nor give back Palestinian East Jerusalem to the Palestinians.
Hamas may have stated they don’t respect the right of the nation of Israel to exist, which has been popularly interpreted to mean they want to kill all of the Jews when it really means they want to eliminate the political entity that has been inhumanely subjecting them. That said, this fear of the Muslims has been used as an excuse for continued subjugation of the Palestinian people but what would one expect them to say given Israel’s propensities? What’s the best way to keep your own people safe from a nation that has apocalyptic designs on your land? You would want to strip that state of its military power by eliminating it as a political entity, just as it had been before 1948 when there was no nation of Israel in the area, only Israeli people. You would let the Jews be part of a greater joint multi-cultural Muslim/Jewish/Christian society and live in relative peace like they did before Zionism rose in the 1920’s to carve out a Jewish homeland against the will of those who had been there for hundreds of years.
At least when the American colonists seized the land that had been the Native Americans’ for centuries we did offer to make things right with them by offering them enough land for them to be able to sustain themselves according to their own traditions and have also given them large sums of money and the ability to make money off of us pale-faces without paying taxes. What has Israel done to make things right with the Palestinians from which they stole their land and created 700,000 refugees? They have only given them bloody Hell.
Looking at the Middle East from the 50,000 foot view, or even better, from God’s view a bit higher up, what we see are two sets of religious people that fear the other ones are trying to take over each other’s land. History seems to verify this fear.
As Christians we have sided with the Jews thinking God is on their side.
I submit God is not on the side of the nation of Israel. He is only on the side of peace and human rights and is against anyone who is not. From his vantage point in heaven he sees both sides as wrong. And the Palestinians being the overwhelmingly weak and disadvantaged ones needing help from the one government strong enough to do it – the United States.
Do we as Christians have a better idea other than maintaining the status quo?
Yes, we do. It’s doing things the Jesus way.
The Old Covenant was about land. Land was a blessing and a reward for faithfulness. The New Covenant, the one instituted by Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, is not about land. It’s about something worth much more: spiritual blessing. Though God may have for a period of time made ownership of real estate important Jesus came along and repudiated such thinking when he said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my followers would fight.” He also said, “You worship on this mountain but the time is coming when people will worship in Spirit and in truth.”
That time came in the first century yet 2000 years later Christians are concerned about a physical temple for people to worship in. Those Christians are doing the same many followers of Mohamed are doing: dragging people back to Old Covenant values and ways of doing things. That’s not progress folks, that’s rejecting Jesus Christ and going back to that from which he died to set us free.
Jesus’ statements about his kingdom not being of this world and people will not worship at a temple but worship in spirit and in truth are about as clear as you can get that once God’s Son and the New Covenant came this whole real estate thing and worshipping on a holy site thing was over. In fact, Jesus warned that the place of worship that was so important to the Old Covenant would soon be destroyed, in the lifetime of some who were standing there listening to him. That actually happened in 70 AD when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and tore down the temple, just as Jesus said would happen in Matthew 24.
This leads to a very important question: Why do we as the spiritual heirs of the blessings and promises to Israel make that patch of desert at the east end of the Mediterranean and the land the temple used to sit upon in Jerusalem so important that we must do everything in our ability to keep non-Jews from owning it, even to the point of putting up with human rights abuses and a war-mongering spirit that is the antithesis of what Jesus taught us?
Is it really that important in the grand scheme of things?
I realize that there is a small (but vocal) segment of the Christian church that believes God still has plans for Israel and real estate and believe that Israel becoming a nation in 1948 was on a prophetic time-table that begins a count-down to the End Times when God will cause a great spiritual revival among the Jews and give them the land he promised back in the Old Testament. For many reasons I don’t agree with this line of thinking, which can be called Zionism, Futurism or Dispensationalism. It ignores the purpose of the covenants and how the Old Covenant promises were fulfilled in Christ and continue to be fulfilled in Christ’s body (which by the way includes both Christians and Jews), makes us live in the covenant that ended in the first century, ignores how Jesus and his followers believed and taught Christ would return in their lifetime, and makes the End Times the end of the world instead of the end of the Old Covenant. It also makes us do things that cause other people to hate us, hate Christianity, and hate Jesus.
Christian Zionists will quote, “God will bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel.” That is an Old Covenant statement for people living in the Old Covenant. It’s a prophetic statement made to a covenant people during a covenant that has been replaced. I don’t know about you, but the New Covenant of spiritual blessings being poured on us so we in turn abundantly bless others, as in, everybody, with no ethnic distinctions, is so much more satisfying than fighting over real estate on behalf of an ethnic group.
If we really want the Israelis of today to be blessed by God we will demand that they do as Jesus taught us to do: love their enemies and bless those who persecute them – which if I have my head on straight should include those who retaliate against their oppression. God will never bless a people who treat the Palestinians the way they do. Our supporting Israel in this is the worst thing we can do for those of us who want to see justice and blessing for Jews. God will have mercy on those who have mercy on others.
What if I’m wrong and God still has a plan for a natural Israel as well as for us who are spiritual Israel? Are we ever instructed to do anything about helping Israel become a nation and who through terrorist activities steals real estate from whoever happens to be residing on it for the past several hundred years?
I submit the bible not only says nothing about making these Old Testament promises come to pass through our own carnal efforts of warfare and oppression but Jesus rebuked those who would by saying, “You know not what spirit you are of. Love your enemies. Do good to those who spitefully use you. Turn the other cheek. If the oppressive government makes you carry the mail one mile carry it two miles.”
God has shown us what is good and what he requires of us: to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.
Jesus taught us to live in a New Covenant where real estate and other natural blessings should not be our idols. We have not only made the land of Israel an idol but also have made an idol of the corrupt politicians who represent those people to the point we are blind to what they do to stay in office and how the rest of the world sees them for what they are and recognizes their continual human rights abuses. When it comes to the Israeli/Palestinian war we believe Israel can do no wrong because God is on their side and is the one behind all that they do.
We have become enablers of a modern tragedy still unfolding before us, assuming we allow ourselves to see it.
What Would I do About the Palestinian Question?
If I were the president of the United States this is what I would do:
- First, I would cut off all of the $3 billion annual foreign aid to Israel. It’s time to cut the umbilical cord to Uncle Sam.
- Then I would add them to our list of terrorist organizations.
- I would petition the UN to include Israel’s army on any UN list of serious violators of children’s rights.
- I would tell PM Netanyahu that they are on their own with regard to their neighbors and if they start any more wars we might just be coming to their enemy’s rescue and not theirs.
I think that would get Israel’s attention and give me some good leverage for bargaining for peace in the Middle East.
Then, if Israel wants any more help from us they have to become very generous toward the Palestinian people. In order to get any aid from us Israel would need to do the right thing. This includes the following:
- Set the Palestinians free from an oppressive apartheid that is much worse than anything experienced in South Africa. This includes removing all barriers to movement and eliminating the only-for-Jews highways in the West Bank.
- Stop populating the Palestinian territories with Israelis in accord with the Oslo Peace Accords that Israel agreed to but has been ignoring.
- Offer incentives for the Jews in Palestinian territories to move back to Israel. 80% of them are there only because of the financial incentives given them to settle in the Palestinian territories. The other 20% are squatters that just decide to set up camp on a Palestinian’s farm, invite other squatters, and eventually get help from Israel for schools, security fences, roads to Israel, and the like, all subsidized with your US tax dollars.
- Build them a nice 20 mile underground highway to connect Gaza with the West Bank so they can freely travel and trade with each other.
- Open all of the border checkpoints and allow for orderly travel and trade between the lands.
- Let a third party such as the United Nations monitor goods coming into the Palestinian territories to keep arms and munitions out.
- Eliminate laws that discriminate against Palestinians living in Israel.
- Offer to pay for reconstruction of damaged facilities and new construction of infrastructure so the Palestinians are not dependent on Israel for basic needs.
- Buy up several square miles of the farmland surrounding Gaza and the West Bank and donate them to the Palestinians and pay for irrigation projects in the West Bank so they can better feed themselves
- Work out a deal with Egypt to buy up hundreds of square miles of the empty wasteland in the Sinai Peninsula and turn it into cropland for the Palestinians.
- Offer even more if the Palestinians have elections and elect a new and more moderate leadership than Hamas that vows to live in peace with Israel.
This is simply a practical application of “Bless those who curse you,” and “Overcome evil with good.”
I think it’s worth a try, don’t you? The endless cycle of hatred and violence sure hasn’t been working. Let’s do it the Jesus way.
The nation of Israel was created out of the goodwill of British leaders and sympathy for their plight under the Communist and Nazi regimes. It’s time to expect them to return the favor to a people who have suffered at the hands of Jews, Christians, and even their fellow Muslims.
I think all of the above can be done for far less than what we have been spending to arm Israel. We can turn our spears into ploughshares, and we don’t have to wait for the Millennium to do it.
The alternative I believe would be a dismantling of the Israeli government to end apartheid just as was done to the South African government.
If the United States as a so-called Christian nation (as it is perceived to be by much of the world) is ever going to be considered by people in the Middle East as being a moral nation having anything to offer the rest of the world in terms of a faith that produces a more moral people we need to get our collective heads out of the sand and start looking at the world from a divine perspective. We will only continue to lose credibility in the world if we continue to take sides with corrupt political entities (such as Hamas and Netanyahu) instead of taking sides with oppressed people such as the Palestinians.
The Muslims of the Palestinian territories will continue to believe Allah is against the US if we continue to make them and their leaders scapegoats while turning a blind eye to the inhumane and degrading actions of Israel while supporting them without question. If we do not demonstrate the compassion of Jesus for oppressed people and continue to side with the war-mongering spirit of their oppressors we will always be making enemies in the Middle East rather than making disciples of Christ. We can cast blame on Mohammad all we want for their desire to throw off their yoke of bondage and violent ways of doing so but until we lift that yoke ourselves we are just a noisy gong and a crashing symbol. All of our talk about Christian love is just that.
You might also like:
A Christian’s Plan to Deal with the ISIS Crisis
We Should Have Listened to the Libertarians About the Middle East
Our Presence in the Middle East Really IS About Oil
Palestinian Christian Response to UN Condemnation of Israeli Settlements
Israel Statehood: A Catastrophe, Not a Miracle
Here’s just about every organization having something to do with Palestine from a journalist who realized everybody in the world understands Palestine, except Americans: If Americans Knew
Another excellent resource page appropriately called the Boycott Israel Resource Page. These few words speak volumes:
Israel is the most racist state in the world at this time
Zionism calls for a Jewish state. Israel defines Jewishness, in part, in genetic terms. A person is legally Jewish if his or her mother is Jewish, regardless of place of birth or religious belief. Israel is an apartheid state that systematically discriminates against the indigenous population, enforcing, for example, segregated buses and roads. The result of Israeli state policies has been a 66 year program of ethnic cleansing, including expulsion of the Palestinian population, military occupation, and mass murder.
Supporting a boycott against Israel is not Anti-Semitic
Zionism is NOT synonymous with Judaism. Supporting a boycott against Israel is no more anti-Semitic than support of the boycott of Apartheid South Africa during the 1980s was anti-White. Many Jews of conscience and Jewish organizations condemn Israel’s crimes against humanity, and support sanctions and boycott. Among these are the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, L.A. Jews for Peace, Jews in Solidarity with Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, 540 Israeli citizens, and Israeli academics such as Neve Gordon, Emmanuel Farjoun, Rachel Giora and Kobi Snitz.
But aren’t Palestinians equally responsible for the violence?
No. Palestinians are overwhelmingly the victims of Israeli violence, much as American Indians were overwhelmingly the victims of U.S. violence in previous centuries. Israel avoids peace because peace interferes with territorial expansion and ethnic cleansing.A statistical analysis entitled, Reigniting Violence: How Do Ceasefires End? written by faculty members at MIT and Tel Aviv University, and a graduate student at Harvard found that “79% of all conflict pauses were interrupted when Israel killed a Palestinian, while only 8% were interrupted by Palestinian attacks (the remaining 13% were interrupted by both sides on the same day)” and that “of the 25 periods of nonviolence lasting longer than a week, Israel unilaterally interrupted 24, or 96%, and it unilaterally interrupted 100% of the 14 periods of nonviolence lasting longer than 9 days.”
Christian Palestinians – The Forgotten 20%
It’s hard to find Christians and Muslims dwelling together on one land who are more united than what you see in Palestine. Hear their voices at Come and See: The Christian Website From Nazareth.
Alex Awad is a Palestinian Christian who pastored Jerusalem Baptist Church and taught at Jerusalem Bible College. He provides a unique and informed perspective on the issues. His website: www.alexawad.org
Miko Peled, son of an Israeli general, makes a case for dismantling the Israeli government in favor of true democracy to eliminate apartheid as was done in South Africa:
This starts off as a short but informative history lesson but is mostly a walk through the Palestinian Occupied Territories ending with a heartfelt appeal to see what your tax dollars are being used for.
Books About the Occupation:
Here’s a list of just about every organization having something to do with Palestine from a journalist who realized everybody in the world understands Palestine, except Americans: If Americans Knew. Alison left her job as as editor of a small town newspaper to see for herself what was going on in Palestine.
Soon after WWII, US statesman Dean Acheson warned that creating Israel on land already inhabited by Palestinians would “imperil” both American and all Western interests in the region. Despite warnings such as this one, President Truman supported establishing a Jewish state on land primarily inhabited by Muslims and Christians.
Few Americans today are aware that US support enabled the creation of modern Israel. Even fewer know that US politicians pushed this policy over the forceful objections of top diplomatic and military experts.
As this work demonstrates, these politicians were bombarded by a massive pro-Israel lobbying effort that ranged from well-funded and very public Zionist organizations to an “elitist secret society” whose members included Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis.
Against Our Better Judgement: The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel brings together meticulously sourced evidence to illuminate a reality that differs starkly from the prevailing narrative. It provides a clear view of the history that is key to understanding one of the most critically important political issues of our day.
The Israel/Palestinian conflict in a nutshell (after doing my due diligence) and why it is still unresolved after 68 years of negotiations: Israel has been unwilling to give up real estate it has taken, and continues to take more – the Palestinians have been unwilling to give up their legitimacy and dignity as a people. The Palestinians have been systematically demonized as a fly in the ointment of Middle East peace talks. This book gets past the propoganda and dives into specifics of how Israel has manipulated and controled any talks, including who gets to speak on behalf of the Palestinians. Hanan Ashrawi, a fearless American educated Christian Palestinian got the honors of being the official face and negotiator for her people, and presents a side of Yasar Arafat you never got in the press.
Her narrative is incredibly eloquent and her touching style brings a human element to the sufferings and tragedies of the Palestinian people during the occupation.
Her fact-based accounts of the peace negotiations with the Israeli and American governments are presented with a straight-forward attitude that defies contradiction.
24 comments for “Why Christians, and All Americans, Should Support the Palestinians, Not Israel”