Important Notes on the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict
By: Deji Yesufu
On Saturday, 7th October 2023, gunmen invaded the land of Israel in the Middle East. As of the time of this publication, 1,400 Jewish men, women and children have been killed. This incident is now regarded as the worst terrorist attack in modern times since September 11 and since the attack on the United States naval fleet at Pearl Harbor in December 1941 by Japan. Unlike most terrorist attacks that happen in other parts of the world, where it takes authorities years to find out who might be behind the attack, in this case, everyone knows who attacked Israel. Their name? Hamas. Hamas is regarded as a terrorist group by the nation of Israel; unfortunately, a lot of people in the world see them as freedom fighters. It is this ideological divide that fuels the crisis – I will return to this thought later.
Hamas was founded in 1987 with the sole purpose of wiping off the state of Israel from the map of the Middle East. Hamas has not only carried out terrorist attacks on Israel, but they have also gone forward to bring some legitimacy to their actions. They have become a political group and are today the ruling party in Palestine (to understand this better in a Nigerian context: can you imagine Boko Haram forming a political party and becoming the ruling party in this country?). Now, every time there is a terrorist attack on Israel, it is always Hamas launching offences on Israel; and then Israel will reel out her military and pound Palestine (the home country of Hamas) with bombs for days; and then the Palestinian people will begin to publish videos and pictures of children dying from these attacks; and then the United Nations will plead with Israel to stop the attacks; and then Israel will withdraw; and then we will have some peace until Hamas goes mad again. This time, however, it is different. The sheer number of people killed in that Saturday attack has made the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, make this promise: “Hamas started this crisis, Israel will end it.” Now, this is not a mere boast: this is a final solution. Israel will invade the Palestinians with boots on the ground; they will fish out all the Hamas leaders who hide behind women and children to commit atrocities; and they will bring a final solution to this crisis. It will require military might and it may be a war that will pit other nations against themselves. It is the reason why you and I must be ideologically prepared for whatever crisis is ahead.
Islam, Christianity and Judaism are regarded as monotheist religions. They are also called Abrahamic religions because they all flow from God’s interaction with Abraham in Genesis 12. Judaism is the religion of the Jews. It is the religion that is built around the Torah: the Old Testament. Understand that Judaism, unlike Islam and Christianity, is not propagated through evangelism. There are essentially two ways people become Jews: by birth and through willing conversion. So, men become Jewish today because they were born of Jewish parents. There are some instances, however, that Gentiles observe the religion of the Jews and become Jews themselves. So despite their relatively small number, the Jews are an enduring population all around the world. There are Jews in America, Europe and even in the Middle East, this is besides the Jews in Palestine – which is the land under dispute today. Understandably, Judaism will not bow to new concepts of religion. The New Testament account records the Jews’ clash with Christianity. It begins with the Jews’ rejection of Jesus Christ as Messiah; then their rejection of his resurrection (the Jews hold that Jesus lived and died, but never resurrected – Matthew 28:11-15); and finally, their rejection of the teachings of Christ’s apostles – which is the New Testament. So, a Jew believes the Bible but his canon ends with Malachi; they reject Matthew to Revelation. Jews’ rejection of Christ has often pitted them against Christian nations and authorities. And, historically, in reaction to their brilliant minds and doggedness, Christians have also persecuted the Jews. One blight on the life and ministry of the great Protestant Reformer, Martin Luther, was some negative remarks he made on the Jews – statements that the Nazis will use later in the early 20th century to persecute the Jews.
AD 70 remains an iconic year for the Jews and Judaism. This is some 37 years after the death and resurrection of Christ. Jesus had prophesied of this impending cataclysmic clash (Luke 19:41-44). The Jews had always been at loggerhead with their Roman colonizers but that year they clashed with the Romans and a number of Roman soldiers were killed. Emperor Vespasian sent his son, General Titus, “to teach those Jews some lessons” and he was not given any limitation. Titus moved into Judea and mowed down the Jews in thousands. The great temple at Jerusalem was destroyed, with no stone left on another (Matthew 24:2); and the remaining surviving Jews were dispersed into the diaspora. So, while a tiny remnant of Jews remained in Judea, most of them moved to other parts of the Middle East, Russia and Europe.
Then came the 7th century and the religion of Prophet Mohammed – Islam. Mohammed was born in Mecca in AD 570 and died in 632. During Mohammed’s lifetime, he had interactions with three sets of people – as he sought to proselytize the people around him – the Jews, Christians, and polytheists. Polytheism was the religion of the people of Mecca and all the Middle East in the days of Mohammed. Now, of all the three groups of people Mohammed interacted with, understandably, the Jews were the most obstinate. So that the prophet did not have very kind words for them and at some point, even made this statement against them as narrated in Sahih al Bukhari: “Allah’s apostle said, ‘You (i.e Muslims) will fight with the Jews until some of them will hide behind stones. The stones will (betray them) saying O Abdullah (slave of Allah)! There is a Jew hiding behind me; so kill him.’” Besides this, three years before the prophet died, a Jewish woman poisoned his food. Many believe that Mohammed died as a result of this poison, but Muslims generally reject this narration. What cannot be disputed, however, is that there is a historic enmity between Jews and Muslims.
Present Day Israel
Now, the land of Judea, which the British would later name “Palestine”, remained largely empty between AD70 and 1948. During this time, a lot had happened in the Middle East. Palestine was still occupied by some Jews but most of the inhabitants were Arabs, who would naturally come into the historic land and live there. These Arabs are the ones we call “Palestinians” today. Besides, Islam had taken over most of the Middle East and northern Africa as its dominant religion – and with the prevalence of Islam in the Middle East also comes an entrenched bias by the people there against the Jews. In the late 19th century, a movement called Zionism began in Europe, which called for Jewish people to return to their ancestral land in the Middle East. Naturally, the movement did not have much influence because most Jews were very comfortable where they lived in either Europe or America and saw no reason to return to some “promised land” that was largely undeveloped in the midst of a desert, surrounded by hostile neighbors. All of that changed with the coming of Adolf Hitler and his rabid antisemitism.
By the close of the Second World War, it is believed that Hitler and his men had killed no less than six million Jews in the holocaust. The United Nations, which was formed after the Second World War, sought to appease the Jews by giving them the “promised land” that they had been clamouring for. Note, however, that this land is in Palestine, inside the Middle East. A land that has Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon on its boundaries. Note also that all these nations are committed Muslim countries. In 1948, the nation-state of Israel was created to the wide jubilation of the Jews everywhere in the world – the only people who were not rejoicing were their Muslim neighbours. From 1948 until 1973, Israel waged war after war after war with her neighbors to retain a right to her sovereignty. Backed by the United Nations, the West and the sheer grit of its people, Israel withstood all aggressions against her. The United Nations has sought to appease the Palestinians by giving them their own lands which include the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. But Hamas has committed itself to a lifelong war with Israel, while most Arab nations have settled for peace with Israel because of the economic advantage that Israel brings to the Middle East. The Palestinians also enjoy these things, except that their hatred of the Jews will not allow them to see through it to peace.
A New Reality in Our World Today
The saddest part of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is that in most news agencies around the world, Israel is being reported as the aggressor. Very few people are reporting the carnage that has greeted Israel in the killing of 1,400 of her people and the capturing of many others, including women and children. Instead, and like it has become a staple for the Western world, the news of Israel’s military pounding Palestinian cities, with the resultant deaths of women and children, is what is being reported in the news – so far 3,000 Palestinians have been killed. News agencies are rarely talking about the fact that Israel still provides most of the medical help that the Palestinians use in that region of the world; they are not talking about the fact that Israel provides the water and electricity that runs in many Palestinian homes – especially in the Gaza strip; etc. Rather, all we hear is that Palestinian women and children are being killed. These news agencies refuse to report that Hamas, in its raging hatred of Israel, builds its headquarters under a hospital; they station themselves right in the middle of civilians – so that when Israel attacks the terrorists, the civilians die too. Then they take the photos of children killed and publish them to the world – sparking outrage against Israel. Unfortunately, this time around, it will be different. Israel will not stop the attacks until all the major Hamas leaders are brought down.
The real challenge is not even the crisis; the real challenge is that “a generation has risen that does not know Joseph”. People are blatantly ignorant of history and most of the people of our world today have no commitment to any religion and do not care about what some religious books say. The new religion of our day is progressivism. It is the idea that man is the author of his destiny – we do not need God. Therefore, faith is thrown overboard in many leading countries in our world today and people cannot understand why these two religions, Islam and Judaism, could be at loggerheads. Most Christians are sympathetic to the Jews, not because we do not have our grouse with the Jews, but because we believe the Bible. First, there would be no Christianity without Judaism. Christians believe everything the Jews believe; just that we believe more – we believe that the Messiah is Jesus Christ. The Jews reject Christ as the Messiah. Second, Christians believe the biblical account that the Jews will one day confess that Jesus Christ is their Lord (Romans 11:25-26). The hope that these precious people of God will one day return to him, gives Christians sympathy towards the Jews and their plight. It is the reason Western nations, with their fundamentally Christian worldview, back the Jews. Unfortunately, there is an ideological shift in the West right now. Most people in the West are abandoning religion and, in their haste, to reject Christianity with it, they have moved to the political left and are now sympathetic to Islam (a case of the enemy of your enemy is your friend). It is these people who populate CNN, Sky News and MSNBC, and they are the ones feeding the ideological outlook of our own local news stations here in Nigeria.
The Way Forward
In my forthcoming book, Humanity, I write about how ideas rule our world. I also make it clear that ideas are backed by weapons. It is not enough to say you have an idea, that idea will be preserved by weapons – guns and muscles. Israel has weapons. Every Israeli male is a soldier – whether or not they are presently serving in the military. Israel is only behind America in the possession of some of the deadliest weapons this world owns. For example, in her defence, Israel built a weapon called the Dome. What it does is that it tracks every rocket shot into Israeli airspace, by Hamas, and blows it out. It takes 90 seconds for a rocket to fly from Palestinian territory into Israel – and Israel brings down the same rocket in less than a minute after it is shot. The Dome is ninety per cent efficient. What that means is that some rockets still hit their targets in Israel. But the Dome has prevented Israel from all-out war with Hamas – at least until Saturday, 7th of October. So, Israel has sufficient weaponry to protect its territory and to wage sustained warfare with all its neighbors at the same time.
Another thing that must be put into perspective as we move forward is the blessing of Providence. Israel is the people of God, and God will preserve his people. The days will come when Israel will confess Jesus Christ as Lord (Zechariah 9-14), but until then Israel will remain a force to reckon with in our world, and anyone who is a friend of Israel will remain a friend of God. While anyone who is an enemy of Israel would have God to contend with. Our world is an ideological world – and there are no ideas that are more enduring than religious ideas. It does not matter how much our world renounces religion, Christianity, Islam and Judaism will remain religious ideas forever. These religions possess fundamental differences, and adherents will naturally find themselves at loggerheads with each other. But it remains to be said that these religions are theist, and a fundamental commitment to any of their tenets will make anyone reject the leftist leanings of many in our world today. I believe that the biggest challenge we will contend with in the days to come will be atheism. This is why the crisis in the Middle East is a healthy reminder of the differences between the three Abrahamic religions.
God made the heavens and the earth. God has given us the whole thrust of history, from start to finish in the Bible. Scripture tells of God’s elect people Israel; it tells us of how Israel’s continual rejection of God’s laws remains a sin at the heart of his people; it tells of how Jesus Christ died to redeem all men from the sin that separates man and God; and the Bible records for us how God will preserve an elect for himself in the days to come. These elects of God will include Israel – in the days when the Jews shall say blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord (Matthew 23:39).
Peace to the Israel of God.