The Middle East conflict arguably receives more headline space than any other conflict in the world and has successfully divided human opinion into two basic camps. One camp considers the plight of the Palestinian people, forced from their historic homeland by Jewish invaders. The other sees the world's only Jewish state battling terrorists within, surrounded by ambivalent Arab states without, and fighting for its very existence. As we consistently have stood with the latter, we offer the following brief list of arguments on Israel's behalf.
- God gave the land of Israel to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as an "everlasting" possession (Gen 17:8,19; Gen 48:3,4). The LORD put no condition on his promise to Abraham, and while there have been times of exile and times of domination by other powers, there has always been a Jewish presence in the land. (Actually, while current politics bickers over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and the pre-1967 borders, the original borders stretched all the way to the west bank of the Euphrates [Gen 15:18].)
- There has never been a country of Palestine ruled by Palestinians . The Romans originally called the area Judea, but around AD 135 renamed it "Palaestina" - presumably after Israel's enemies the Philistines. After the Romans, the area was controlled in turn by the Byzantine Empire, Arabia, the Seljuk Turks, Mameluke forces from Egypt, the Ottoman Empire, and the British.
- The "Historic Palestinian Homeland" isn't exactly historic . For hundreds of years, Palestine was a miserable backwash part of the Ottoman Empire. Poor administration practices by the Ottoman Empire and a war with the invader Napoleon in 1798 severely reduced the population of Palestine. Both Arabs and Jews emigrated to happier locations and only a dismal, scattered population was left. In his book Innocent's Abroad (1869), Mark Twain repeatedly notes how empty and desolate he found the Holy Land during his travels through. Even Jerusalem held a population of only 14,000 people, and Twain noted there was great variety in those 14,000, including, "Muslims, Jews, Greeks, Latins, Armenians, Syrians, Copts, Abyssinians, Greek Catholics, and a handful of Protestants." It wasn't until the last part of the 19th century that the Arab population started growing again.
- The Jews had need of their own state . Jews also started an exodus into the Holy Land in the late 1800s, fleeing persecution in Europe. After WWI, Britain gained control of the territory of Palestine and, under the League of Nations' British Mandate, sought to create a national homeland for the Jewish people. However, because of Arab pressure, Britain turned around and limited the number of Jews who could legally immigrate and settle, leaving millions of Jews to be slaughtered in Europe during WWII. (Meanwhile, thousands of Arabs who were attracted by the high living standards in Jewish cities were freely allowed to enter the land.)
- Both the Jews and Arabs were offered their own states. Only the Jews accepted. The original British Mandate included land on both sides of the Jordan River, but the area now known as Jordan was given to the Arabs. By the time the carnage of the Holocaust became fully known, the Jews and Arabs had been fighting over Palestine for decades and British efforts to reconcile the sides had not succeeded. In 1947, the UN stepped in and voted to partition Palestine into two separate states - one Palestinian and one Jewish. The Jews were not happy with the partition plan but agreed to the compromise. The Arabs, however, maintained an all-or-nothing position and refused to accept the UN's plan. Had they agreed, the Palestinians would have had their state in 1947.
- It is a miracle Israel still exists . On May 14, 1948, as the British effectively terminated their Mandate on Palestine, the new State of Israel was proclaimed. Israel was quickly recognized by the US and many other nations. Surrounding Arab states, however, immediately attacked the new State of Israel. Yet, in spite of the Arabs' greater numbers and superior military, the new state survived. The world's only Jewish state has been victorious in every subsequent battle with its neighbors.
- Too few Palestinians truly desire peace . Since its creation, Arab groups have desired the elimination of the State of Israel. Most Arab nations have yet to officially recognize the right of Israel to exist, and many Muslim groups, like Hamas and Hezbollah, will not allow peace unless it comes in the form of Israel's destruction. In the schools, Palestinian children are consistently taught to hate Israel and not to seek and pursue peace. The Palestinian leadership has long condoned terrorism against Israeli civilians. Peace proposals have been answered with greater numbers of terrorist attacks. When former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the most far-reaching concessions ever, Yasser Arafat rejected them and the 2000 intifada started shortly thereafter. Until the Palestinians' desire for true peace is stronger than the efforts of the terrorists, no "Road Map" will work.
- Israel is a great nation and an ally . In less than fifty years, the Jews have formed one of the world's most advanced democratic nations. They share western ideals of freedom and independence. Israel is a multicultural land filled with immigrants, and Israelis affirm the equal rights of every Israeli citizen, regardless of race, religion or gender. In spite of the constant terrorist destruction, economic difficulties caused by wars and embargoes, and the effort to absorb hundreds of thousands of immigrants over the years, Israeli society has flourished.
Being in support of Israel, however, is not equivalent to being against the Arab people living in the land. The Palestinians should stir our compassion. They have been lied to by their own leaders, who have put self-aggrandizement and political agendas above the welfare of the people. They have lost freedom because of the terrorists among them. They have lost their jobs and homes and family members during their desperate war against the Jews. Most importantly, they do not know the freedom and peace that comes from a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
The only time there will be true peace in Israel is when the Prince of Peace comes to rule it. Until then, may we continue to pray for the people of Israel, both Jews and Gentiles, that God would reveal Himself to them in a powerful way through the knowledge of His Son.