The Israeli/Palestinian Conflict: A Perspective
by: Deji Yesufu
It has been a few weeks now that Isreali/Palestinian conflict begun. There has been constant tension in this region of the Middle East since 1948 when the nation of Israel was carved out of the land of the Palestinians by the United Nations. One commentary I read stated that the British had colonized this area and as the Second World War drew to an end, the United Nations decided to settle Israelites in the land as a way of appeasing them for their losses under the murderous rule of Adolf Hitler – under whose watch some six million Jews were killed. Immediately the Jews were settled into the land, conflict began between the Israelites and the Palestinians.
The British were unable to settle the crisis between these two nations before they left Palestine and headed back to Europe. That conflict has continued unabated until today. In this essay I want to attempt a perspective that is neither in support of the Jews or the Palestinians. It is simply an attempt at understanding the conflict; hopefully responses to this essay will help broaden our investigations of the issues and perhaps help suggest solutions to end the conflict. By the way my perspective is rendered as a Bible believing Christian.
Historically Israel is regarded as God’s special people. This historical perspective is gleaned from the Christian’s Old Testament, which is also the Jewish scripture, also called the Torah. God in Genesis 12 instructed an idol worshipper, Abraham, to leave his father’s home and go to a land which he will show him. God promised to bless Abraham, make a nation of people out of him and, most of all, bless the whole earth through his seed. Abraham believed God who appeared to him and went on this journey. The rest, like they say, is history. Abraham had a child called Isaac. Isaac gave birth to Jacob (Israel). Israel’s twelve sons brought forth the Hebrew nation, also known as Israel.
God’s dealings with the Israelites were multifaceted but one constant denominator in his relationship with his people was that God said that one day he would send a man, a new Moses, who will deliver the nation of Israel from all their enemies. The Israelites came to know this man as the Messiah. The Christian scriptures, the Bible, records that Jesus is the Messiah that the Jewish people seek. Unfortunately, when Christ came, the Jews rejected him. Not only that, the Jews went a little further and crucified him. While they were killing the Son of God, they said that they were willing to accept the consequences of their actions: “Let his blood be upon us and our children…” they cried out to Pilate. They were confident they were doing away with an impostor; they did not know that they were rejecting their Redeemer. The Jews missed their Messiah because they thought that their Messiah was going to bring physical deliverance to them; when actually God sought to deliver Israel from thier sin – which has been the one item that had alienated them from their God right from the start of God’s dealings with their fathers.
When Jesus was killed, the Jews were confident they had gotten rid of a thief. Until they begun to hear rumors of his resurrection. The leaders of the Jews of that day, AD33, told the lie that the followers of Jesus had stolen his body from where he was buried. As jejune as this story sounds, most of the Jews of that day, and those of today, believed it. Our Lord also did not appear to any unbeliever after his resurrection. In fact there is a sense in it that the appearing of the resurrected Christ to an unbeliever is salvation to that soul; so that whether in spirit or in his resurrected body, every born again Christian has seen the risen Christ. I digress.
In spite of the fact that Jesus rose from the dead and in spite of the fact that Christ had pleaded with God to have mercy on the Jews while he hung on the cross, I hold the opinion that God still had a score to settle with the Jews. Why? Because the Apostle Paul wrote: “…since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you…” (2 Thessalonians 1:6). Jesus himself warned the Jews of the coming judgement on them when he said “…For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:43-44). Jesus was saying that God will send judgement on the Jews because they did not recognize the Messiah among them.
One of the least told stories of the time of Jesus was that there were militant groups present in Palestine at that time. This groups hated the Romans and resisted their government. They hated the fact the Jews were being subjugated in their own land. After our Lord had risen to heaven and had sent his disciples into all the nations to preach the gospel, these zealots continued to call for an independent Jews nation – independent from Roman rule. Sometime between AD 68 and 69, there was an uprising in Jerusalem that resulted in the killing of some Roman soldiers. Emperor Nero will have none of that nonsense and so he sent General Titus to the land of Israel to teach those stupid Jews a lesson.
In AD70, the Romans invaded the land of Israel and brought the whole country to the ground. Jesus’ prophecy was fulfilled to the letter: the temple that had been built in the days of Herod was torn down. The walls of Jerusalem, their security, was brought down. The Jews were slaughtered in their thousands. The Christians in their midst already had a foreknowing that this was going to happen and so they fled Jerusalem. No one was spared. The few Jews that survived the onslaught were dispersed into all the world. Many of them lived in the Middle East and a number of them migrated to Europe. Since Judaism, the religion of the Jews, was mainly by birth, Jews continued to preserve their religion and heritage but they were completely removed from their land.
From AD70 till the beginning of the 20th century, the land where the Jews once lived was wholly unoccupied. Although to be fair, because nature abhors vacuum, the Jewish land will later become occupied. The people who lived in the land of the Jews from AD70 up to 1900 are the ones we refer to as Palestinians today. They have lived in that land for close to 2,000 years. The second challenge is that the only right the Jews have to that land are not some historical records but the text on the pages of the Old Testament. The Jews lay claim to the land because they say God gave them the land. But the Palestinians, who are mostly Muslims, do not believe in the Torah and so reject any claim as to God giving the Jews any land. Besides, the Jews are a very smart and industrious lot. So that Israel today is one of the most scientifically advanced countries in the world. In addition, the West which were originally Christian (and with the sympathy that Christians have for Jews over Muslims) backs Israel up.
When the Jews resettled into the land of Palestine in 1948, they have continually had conflict with their neighbors. Unfortunately, every effort that these people make at annihilating the Jews results in the Jews becoming more and more empowered and it leads them to take over more and more land in Palestine – leaving a relatively small portion of land for the people of Palestine. Also, while Israel is today recognized by the league of nations as a country, Palestine is not. When crisis begin, there are a lot more causalities on the side of the Palestinians than with Israel because the Palestinians do not have as much protection. The recent crisis between Israel and Palestine is made worse by the lackadaisical posture of the present United States government. Joe Biden is a Leftist and not a committed Christian, and thus he is not as committed to backing Israel as Republican Presidents tend to do. This crisis has escalated because the Palestinians suspect that they may enjoy the tacit support of Joe Biden. The days to come will tell what will really happen.
This essay is certainly not exhaustive and there are surely some details that I might have left out. One thing we, as Christians, must keep in mind though are these: First, Israel is not a Christian nation. The Jews need the gospel of Christ as much as all other unbelieving nations. As we pray for peace in Israel, we should pray much more for the salvation of the Jewish people. That God will open their eyes to recognize their Messiah and believe in him. Second, the crisis between Israel and Palestine is a humanitarian crisis. Both parties have a point and both can be said to be right to a large extent. Because of this we should pray that the United Nations and all the bodies involved in settling this crisis, find God’s wisdom at doing it. If the crisis continues, it has the potential at plunging the whole world into a third world war. This is one reason we should pray fervently for peace to reign. Third, the Jews still have God’s grace with them. Israel is still an elect nation of God. It is the reason many Jews are exceptional in what they do. And as the New Testament states one day Israel will be saved.
The crisis in Palestine is not outside of God’s plan for the nations. There is no bullet shot or person killed in this crisis that is outside the will of God. The story of this crisis reminds the Church that our God reigns and his Son, Jesus Christ, will soon return to the earth. This crisis should quicken our commitment to reaching the world with the gospel and it should increase our desire to see Christ return as King of kings and Lord of lords. When Jesus returns, he will be landing in Palestine to reclaim the throne of his “father” David – where he will reign forever and ever. Amen.