Do Evangelical Christians Consider The Plight Of The Palestinians?
Posted by Job on January 4, 2009
Please note: several updates and edits have been made.
Israel is well into their mini – invasion of the very same Gaza Strip that they abandoned just a few years ago. Now when the Gaza Strip was abandoned, critics claimed that militants would take control of the area and use it to plan and launch attacks on Israel. After years of the critics being proven right, Israel is yet again taking military action against the Gaza area to stop rockets from being fired on its population.
Israel has every right to defend itself. However, one of the conservative – leaning Jerusalem Post’s better columnists claims that the invasion has less to do with self defense than with politically positioning Israel’s current corrupt ruling coalition in advance of the February elections. Now one does not have to be as cynical as that columnist to question Israel’s motivations. And one certainly does not have to endorse the unabashedly Zionist views of this columnist – and of the Jerusalem Post that she represents – to wonder exactly what this military campaign will accomplish other than killing lots of people.
The best reason why one should ask themselves this question is to view this conflict from the side of the Palestinian people. Most Americans have been reared to view only the Israeli side. The first reason is that quite simply Israel is a very important American and western ally in that critical region. That alone will mean that our government and our mainstream media will inevitably side with Israel. The second reason is that many American Christians have been indoctrinated into regarding Israel as a natural ally for religious reasons which range from the premillennial dispensational movement (that I myself until recently belonged to) which considers Israel as belonging to the Jews alone and its rebirth as a fulfillment of endtimes prophecies to other Christians who simply prefer Judaism to Islam, and in particular conservatives who subscribe to the “Judeo – Christian western culture” ideology which conveniently casts aside inconvenient facts of religion and history.
So, the western – and evangelical Christian – line has been that the sole source of the Palestinian – Israel problem is Palestinian terror, and that were the Palestinians to renounce violence, all of the problems would end. And for 50% of the equation that is correct. It would end all of the problems for the Israelis. But for the Palestinians, I am not so certain.
Let us start, of course, with the premillennial dispensational position, which just happens to be the position of the majority of evangelical Christians, and furthermore heavily influences evangelicals that hold other endtimes beliefs. (Consider, for instance, that even amillennial evangelicals often subscribe to the “Judeo – Christian western culture” ideology and have made it a very important part of their dominionist thought.) Such people take the position that Palestinians have no basis for being in Israel in the first place, and should accept being dealt with however Israel chooses to. As these people oppose even a two state solution on terms as favorable to Israel as possible – as for them it would be a sin and an attempt to rebel against prophecy – if pressed they would ultimately admit that it would be best if the Palestinians simply left Israel. Best for who? Israel? Of course. Christians who hold these beliefs? Certainly. Palestinians? Of course not.
You see, there are MILLIONS of Palestinians, and they are FLAT BROKE. So … where would they go? Many float the “there is no such thing as a Palestinian” notion and proclaim the idea that the Palestinians are actually Jordanians. So, such people claim, the Palestinians could return to Jordan. Of the many problems with this thinking, the most pressing and relevant one is that the sovereign nation of Jordan disagrees with it. Or should I say that even if Jordan did agree that the Palestinians were in fact Jordanians, they are not going to accept being flooded with millions of impoverished “Jordanian” refugees – thereby adding to their own set of not insignificant problems – based on it. Incidentally, neither is Iran. Neither is Iraq, Neither is Syria. Neither is Lebanon. Neither is Egypt. Neither are any of the other places where the people who adhere to the “Israel belongs to the Jews and if the Palestinians don’t like it they can just leave!” mindset suggest as potential homes for the Palestinians. And why should they?
Now keep in mind that the dispensational evangelicals in question who wish to push the Palestinians off on the Egyptians, Jordanians, Syrians and Lebanese feel the same way. How many American evangelicals want to bring the Palestinians over here? To put them in South Dakota, Wyoming, or even Alaska? That’s what I thought. They could care less about where the Palestinians go. They just don’t want them in Israel and don’t want them over here. And the Judeo – Christian westerners don’t even want them in Europe. As a matter of fact, they want Europe to expel the Muslims and Arabs that they have already.
So the people suggesting that everything would be better if the Palestinians simply left en masse – or were Israel be bold and courageous enough to stand up for themselves by driving them out – either know full well that they are not proposing a workable solution or have not studied the situation enough to know that what they propose is not viable. Either way, they are no help to the situation, which means that they are no help to Israel or to the Jews. The truth is, though, that the people who believe that a solution for the Palestinians involves them remaining in Israel are not being much more realistic.
For instance, start with the common Israeli position that they offered to come together with the Palestinians to form a single state decades ago, and that the response of the Palestinians was to join the Arab/Muslim world in declaring war. So, the Palestinians are just a bunch of anti – Semite war mongerers, right? Well, that assumes that the Palestinians were ever obliged to accept forming a state with this huge influx of EUROPEANS and AMERICANS to begin with. Certain conservative Jews and their advocates would have you believe that Israel was basically barren, and that virtually all of the Palestinians are squatters from Jordan (and Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and wherever) who barged into area simply to keep and drive the Jews out. Even were that version of history true, one of the many variants of the “there is no such thing as a Palestinian” idea, all that it means is that the Palestinians and Jews have an equal claim on the land, which is ZERO based on modern history.
Even if we accept the Old Testament version of events as history (which of course the Palestinians, being neither Jews or Christians, are not obliged to), that version tells us that the nation of Israel ceased to exist in 586 BC. Which means that for people who tend to reject Judaism and dispensational Christianity (which again would include Muslims by definition) even according to their own history and literature, the Jewish claim on the land ended in 586 BC.
Sure, some Jews did remain in Israel, and more repatriated from elsewhere to Israel, but only because the Babylonians, Medo – Persians, Greeks and Romans allowed them. What is also true is that after the Jewish – Roman War in 132 AD, the Roman Empire burned Jerusalem to the ground, renamed it, and made it a capital crime for any Jew to attempt to re – enter. The Roman Empire then fell and control of the land of Israel and Jerusalem went back and forth over the centuries to various entities – including but not limited to Arabs and Muslims – that weren’t very much more accommodating to the desires of any large number of Jews wishing to resettle Israel than the Roman Empire was.
And incidentally, after the Jewish – Roman War, there actually was no large organized international effort of Jews to resettle Israel in the first place. Until, that is, the Zionist movement, which was originally led by socialist – and largely atheist – Jews with nationalist and secular aims. A big motivating factor of the original Zionists: getting away from religious people. The original Zionists were trying to get away from both the Christians who were oppressing and discriminating against them and the religious Jews who were making the atheist and secular Jews outsiders in their own communities, and create a secular socialist state where there would be religious freedom and a commitment to equal rights and peace.
This is, of course, in direct contrast to modern Zionism, which is heavily religious in nature (both Jewish and Christian), militaristic, and hyper – capitalist. I am not afraid to say that the original Zionists would call the modern Zionists fascists, religious zealots (and hypocrites), and insist that they pick another name for themselves.
In any event, the original Zionist movement did get some Jews into Israel, but not that many. So the result was that immediately after World War II, Israel was just one of many colonies in the British Empire, and had a small Jewish population (that the Palestinians were not above targeting for murderous violence I should add). Also, the British liberated Israel after World War II not because of any special considerations for Israel, but because of the general consensus shortly after the great war that western colonial powers should grant self – rule and self – determination to its colonies.
Further, Israel was not chosen as the homeland for the Jews because of the Old Testament. Instead, after World War II, there was the thorny issue of what to do with the many Jewish refugees, and for that matter the Jewish diaspora in general. There was a huge number of displaced Jews, and there was also the general agreement that Jews needed a place to go to in case of persecution. Many Jews tried to flee Hitler’s Holocaust, but they had nowhere to go: no nation would accept them. The sad truth is that no one wanted them. No nation wanted the Jewish refugees, and in particular no nation wanted to be the place that would accept large numbers of Jews fleeing persecution or some other distress in another nation or nations.
Only a single nation, an African nation, offered to accept any appreciable number of Jews, and even that was almost certainly because they were promised international aid for doing so: basically accepting being paid off by people who preferred giving up large sums of money in exchange for not having to host current and future Jewish refugees. However, the Jewish community quite understandably did not find that destination to their liking.
So only then did the international community see Israel as the answer to the immediate problem of the Jewish refugees and the long term issue of a place where members of the international Jewish diaspora could flee persecution, as everyone agreed was needed after the Holocaust. (It is generally agreed that upon seeing that no nation was willing to take on a large number of Jewish refugees, Hitler saw that there would be no repercussions for fully pursuing his final solution. So no matter what history books claim, whatever motivations that various countries had for entering World War II, saving the Jews was not one of them.) Everyone agreed that the Jews needed a place to go if they had to, but no one wanted their country to be that place!
So the intent never was to recreate Biblical Israel to satisfy the religious aims of Jews or of dispensational Christians. (Quite the contrary, the Christian bodies with the most political influence at the time, Roman Catholics and mainline Protestants, were amillennial, and believe that the church has replaced Old Testament Israel. Church of England = amillennial.) Being a colony that England was about ready to wash its hands of anyway, Israel was merely the most convenient – and very likely the only practical – place to put them.
So, this was fine for the international community, who got to rid themselves of their responsibility to the Jewish people plus not a few actual Jews. And it was fine for the Jewish people. Secular Jews saw it as Zionism achieved (and the Israeli nation was indeed secular and socialist initially), religious Jews saw it as being returned to their land of promise to await the Moshiach (Messiah). But no one can pretend that Israel being flooded by European Jews was good for the Palestinians living there in any way, shape or form. The Palestinians saw it for what it was from their perspective … an invasion. So the Israeli argument “we offered the Palestinians the opportunity to join us in a state and they chose war over peace” … well imagine if a flood of Mexicans, Kenyans or Soviets came to America offering to create a nation with us and had the United Nations backing them. What would we say? No, right?
Of course, it isn’t that simple, because the Palestinians did not have a sovereign state at that time. But it is equally true that the Palestinians were never obliged to accept what the British, the international community, and the flood of European Jews were attempting to impose on them.
There is still more. When Israel advocates mention the refusal of the Palestinians to join them in a state, they leave out some key details. Namely, that the state would have been Jewish. Any other way would have been unacceptable to the Jews, because it would have been impossible to ensure that Jewish citizens of that state would have religious freedom and be otherwise well treated, and it certainly would have been impossible to allow such a state to allow an open – ended stream of Jewish refugees from primarily Europe and America. Now it would have been technically possible to make such guarantees had Jews remained a numerical majority (allow me to point out that the number of Palestinians when added to the number of Arab/Muslim Israeli citizens far exceeds the number of Jews, and has for quite some time now!), but there was no way to ensure that it would happen. So, the Palestinians would have had to consent to living in a state that while technically secular and socialist would be by constitutionally mandated as Jewish and western, and would allow for Jews all over the world to come automatically be citizens with other Arabs and Muslims not having that same right. Thus, the Palestinians would have actually been better off by remaining a British colony than by joining this state.
And what of the two – state solution? Well, for starters, that presumes that a Palestinian accepts the right of a bunch of Europeans to grab half the land which they consider theirs. (Even if the land isn’t theirs, from their perspective it certainly does not belong to the Jews. Again, not only are Muslims not obliged to respect the Old Testament, but even according to the Old Testament Israel ceased to exist in 586 BC, and history records Jews being driven from a Jerusalem that they didn’t even control in 132 AD.) Just like no Frenchman, German, Irishman, or American would agree to those terms willingly, it is something that very few Palestinians would naturally be obliged to accept. Rather, it is something that they would acquiesce to over time after finally realizing that nothing better is forthcoming. So yes, a majority of Palestinians will accept a two – state solution even though they don’t really want one, because they prefer it to perpetual poverty and warfare.
The problem: what Israel has been offering is not a two state solution. Israel proposals include A) Israel getting more land and B) Israel getting the better land, including most of Jerusalem. Also, because of their very real and understandable security needs, this Palestinian “state” would have no real military, strict limitations on trade, and a lack of control over its ports and airspace. Those things would either be monitored by Israel or by “the international community.” Now you can call such an entity a lot of things, but an actual sovereign state is not one of them. In truth, it is not much different than being a territory ultimately under the jurisdiction of another nation (or the U.N.) or for that matter being a colony allowed limited self – rule. And to keep on being redundant, the Palestinians could have had that with the British and without having to surrender the better part of the land to what they quite understandably view as European interlopers.
Israel and its many advocates keep trying to claim that the Palestinians would go from being poor people in refugee tents to being extremely wealthy and carefree with virtually unlimited international aid and also international military protection from any nation that tried to attack them (i.e. an irate Syria or Egypt that considered them traitors to the Arab/Muslim cause, or failing that simply wanting their land) but few Palestinians have been so easy to buy off with promises of becoming a permanent welfare state.
Now am I leaving out a lot, including things concerning anti – Semitism and radical Islam, and the pernicious influence of other Muslim/Arab states who truthfully could care less about the Palestinians and simply hate Jews and westerners? Of course. But if you think that even absent those influences the Palestinians would be happy to accept second class status within a Jewish state, or living in a phony Palestinian state that cannot so much as operate its own airport, then you are expecting the Palestinians to accept terms that no westerner, and especially no American, would accept for himself. After all, why did America fight the revolutionary war again? And why did the American south fight the Civil War? Enlarging that a little bit, the French, British, and Russians didn’t just roll over and accept being dominated by the Germans and Italians did they? And America and its allies didn’t just sit back and allow the Soviet Union to win the Cold War either.
But the Palestinians aren’t westerners. They aren’t western Europeans, and they certainly aren’t Americans. So, most Americans believe that the Palestinians should just accept whatever conditions that America and Israel impose upon them, and are shocked – SHOCKED – when Palestinians reject terms that no American (and no modern day Israeli Zionist) would accept. To go ahead and spell it out, the Palestinians refuse to accept that they are an inferior people with an inferior culture, and that they should just sit back and allow people who consider themselves to be a superior people with a superior culture (and religion) to dictate their fates as they please. And of course, Americans and Israelis get very upset when the Palestinians refuse to accept their inferiority or our superiority; that everything would be SO MUCH BETTER if they and everyone else in the world were to just obediently do everything that America (and Israel) tells it to do. You have one side seeking its best interests at the expense of the other side, and the other side pushing back just as certainly as the first side would were they in their position, indeed as the first side has in the past. After all, colonial America had a much better lot than the Palestinians currently do, and do not forget that their relative comfort in many cases came at the expense of slaves and native Americans (a fact that the British that the Americans rebelled against never ceased to point out).
So that is why this current military action by Israel, indeed any military or political action by Israel, is ultimately doomed to fail. It does not change the fact that there are millions of Palestinians in land that Israel ultimately controls. It does not change the fact that there is no place for these Palestinians to go even if they wanted to. They cannot become Israeli citizens because if they did Israel would no longer be a Jewish state but an Arab/Muslim state (with all that it entails, including at minimum but certainly not limited to no longer unconditionally accepting Jews), and “the Arab/Muslim world” will not take them in, nor should they be expected to. (They didn’t create this problem, they don’t support the current policy, so why should they solve it? Let the British, who created the problem, or the Americans, who so proudly unconditionally backs Israel, accept the Palestinians. Of course, none of those people who thinks that the Palestinians should just go to Jordan or Egypt thinks that sounds like such a good idea!) And they are unwilling to accept living in a phony “Palestinian state” that wouldn’t even be able to defend itself from attack from another Arab nation, Israel, or anyone else, let alone truly control its own economy.
So, there is really only one solution. That is to make Palestinian existence so miserable that whoever survives will agree to Israel’s terms. That actually is the position of Binyamin (Benjamin) Netanyahu and those to the right of him. However, even that has problems. First, it will mean an all out war with the Palestinians that will mean a very high number of Jewish casualties, especially if other Arab nations get involved. Most of the “crush the Palestinians” contingent delude themselves of the actual cost of this policy in Jewish lives – and I include Netanyahu himself in this delusional group – and the rest see it as a price that they are willing to pay. Second, a great many Jews, including some that are quite conservative and/or religious, really truly do not want to be cruel and oppressive to the Palestinians; or to slaughter large numbers of them and to crush the spirits of the survivors. Most of them are willing to fight a war, but only a defensive one.
Now please do not misunderstand the intent of this, which is not to be anti – Israel or pro – Palestinian. Rather, it is to point out that the Israeli – Palestinian situation really is intractable. There honestly is no solution. The Palestinians can’t leave because no one will take them. The Palestinians can’t join Israel because that would destroy the Jewish state and homeland. Israel can’t give the Palestinians a legitimate state because Muslim extremists would use that state to launch devastating attacks against Israel’s population. And the Palestinians cannot agree to a phony state because such a state would be unable to defend itself and have no one truly willing to defend the state for them.
So, it comes down to the Christians who repeat the common slogan of Israel supporters: “why can’t the Palestinians just give up terror” is really “why can’t the Palestinians accept foreigners taking over half their land and being relegated to living in an economically unviable ‘state’ that cannot defend itself.” I say that American Christians who root for Palestinians to accept such terms – or any other terms that they would never themselves accept – in the interests of “peace” violate Matthew 22:39 and especially Matthew 5:43-44.
Before you go claiming an “out” based on the notion that Muslims do not qualify as our neighbors because they aren’t Christians, please remember that save for the tiny percentage of Messianic Jews, the Israelis aren’t Christians either. So really, in this dispute, I would have a hard time proposing that Christians have a Biblical basis for choosing any one side over the other. (The liberal Christians who side with the Palestinians ignore that the Palestinians are not exactly innocent oppressed victims here.) Who I really want to hear from are the premillennial dispensationalists who stand with Israel because of Abraham’s covenant and believe that the recreation of Israel in 1948 was a mighty act of God that sets the stage for the endtimes including the rapture, and that Israel belongs to the Jews and the Jews alone based on it. Seriously, what is the solution according to your doctrines? What is the Biblical solution to this intractable problem that Christians should hope and pray to occur?
I freely admit that from where I sit there is no solution other than to wait for Jesus Christ to return. To choose the Israeli side is to be unjust to the Palestinians, most of whom have not engaged in a single act of violence against anyone and are living in a dire situation that they did not create and have no power to resolve. To choose the Palestinian side is to be unjust to the Israelis, who despite their superior wealth and military might are also stuck in a bad situation. They can’t give in to the Palestinians, and they can’t leave Israel because no one wants them, not even the United States.
Now I 100% believe Paul when he wrote in Romans that God has not cast off His chosen people the Jews. I also believe 100% when this same Paul wrote that God created all people and loves all people, including Palestinians. I do not advocate picking sides in this intractable situation that will only be resolved by God on the basis of doctrines that present an unbalanced view of scripture, and I rise up in direct opposition to those who pick sides based on worldly concerns (i.e. which one is “pro – western”, which one is “our ally”, which one’s culture and religion we find more appealing, etc.).
So Christians are left with the fact that with regard to the Israeli – Palestinian situation, we are to be on no one’s side but God’s, and therefore we are to pray for the speedy return of Jesus Christ and that God’s Will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And yes, it is God’s Will in heaven that Jews and Palestinians come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. So we are to pray for that to happen to. We are also to work for that to happen with our evangelism. And we are also to cast off everything, including unbalanced doctrines and worldly political situations, that would hinder us from being as effective as we possibly can in evangelizing both Jews and Palestinians. I have to say that the current way that many contemporary evangelical Christians view and paint the Israeli – Palestinian conflict often results in a form of false or negative witness to both groups that leave Jews feeling that they do not need to accept Jesus Christ because they are already inherently righteous without Him and Palestinians feeling that they don’t want a Jesus Christ that based on our own doctrines and political positions doesn’t love or care about them.
(I realize that my last statement may seem to conflict with my Reformed/Calvinist leanings, but it is still a true statement. Believing in a predestined elect and believing that God commanded us to show love to all without partiality and certainly without worldly considerations are ideas that are not in tension or conflict, because the same Bible that speaks of the former also incontrovertibly commands the latter. So if anything, the Bible is clearer and more direct on the compulsion to evangelize both Jew and Palestinian, not be partial to either, and to cast off anything that hinders it – if an eye or hand offends then pluck it out or chop it off! – than it is on predestination, so that should be doctrinally and spiritually prior. So yes, I disagree with Calvin’s successor Theodore Beza who called predestination the head of all doctrines. I also disagree with Beza – and Augustine – on the issue of hunting down and killing Anabaptists and Donatists, but that is a topic for another day.)