Ten or so years ago I walked into an airport bookstore and saw Jimmy Carter’s (then) new book on Israel and the Palestinians. At the time, there was been quite a commotion over this book. Carter used the word ‘apartheid’ to describe the potential of Israeli policies – I feared the worst. What I found was a rehashing of the same ideas as the “peace now” groups in Israel: Israel should pull back from the “West Bank” and return to the 1967 U.N. accepted borders. Minor adjustments could be made for security, including keeping some settlements. This would entail trading some land on the Israel side of the old border (the green line). Really, this was not much different than the Barak negotiated plan offered to Arafat in 2000. Carter’s book sadly had a tone of blaming Israel for the present stalemate. I found it to be over the top. Many factual errors were documented by reviewers such as Harvard University’s Alan Dershowitz.
For the sake of our readers then and now, I think it is important to have a short and solid statement of response. Messianic Jews are Biblical Zionists. Zionism is the view that it is important for Jews to return to the Land of Israel and that this is a just and right cause. Biblical Zionists add that this land has been given to the Jewish people as their homeland, which is a Scriptural teaching. There is a clear promise of a returning to the Land repeated again and again throughout scriptures. The question remains, where should followers of Yeshua stand, both Jew and Gentile?
Does God Have a Say?
Most justice commentators and policy makers today ignore the most important point: God is the owner of the whole earth, He has the right to allocate land as He sees fit. Eventually all land will be allocated by God, but as a precursor to this just allocation, God challenges the world to accept His allocation of one very small piece of property, a property the size of New Jersey. Although former President Carter means well, and does claim to be representing Christian values, his unwillingness to embrace God’s Word on this matter places him strictly within the camp of secular humanism.
The most important thing for us as committed disciples of Yeshua is God’s will. This is always the first justice issue. Looking back on the 19th century, England was influenced by the Bible and had embraced as their national destiny the role of restoring Israel as a nation. God was allowed to speak. What a difference a century makes!
But what about Palestinian rights?
Some say that the Palestinians have been displaced from land they had occupied for hundreds of years and this is unjust. It is crucially important to break the deception of this argument. First, we must ask at what point a people cease to have claim to their land? Let us say that one nation displaces another and then occupies that land for ten years. Can the former people who were displaced come back and justly retake their land? Most would say yes. What about in fifty years? What about in five hundred years? An absolute right is not given to keep possession of a land that was obtained by expelling the original occupants, even many years after the fact. Native Americans lost most of their land but now seek compensation after hundreds of years. We think that such arguments are credible; otherwise we would say that the occupation of the land by Europeans for hundreds of years nullifies any claim. Justice issues cannot be solved by this argument, especially since God has spoken on this issue.
In addition, most of Israeli land was not gained by pushing Palestinians off their land. From the 1880s to 1948, the Jews returned to a desolate land that was sparsely populated and purchased the land for their settlements. State owned land passed from the Turkish Empire to Britain and then to Israel. In the 1948 and 1967 wars, Israel did displace some Palestinian occupants, but many of these were for security reasons.
On the basis of the justice issues, the U.N. voted to form the state of Israel in 1948. For a brief period, the world entertained the just cause of the Jewish people. The countries of the world had proven that they could not be trusted with the protection of their Jewish minority. Therefore the U.N. voted to give the Jews their own state on land they reclaimed from desolation as well as land purchased from Arab owners who gladly sold the land in exchange for the funds they received.
Two of the wars fought after this decision led to border changes, these were in 1948 and 1967. Throughout history justice was played out this way: the aggressor rightly loses land and is penalized if defeated in war. This principle of historic justice is ignored by U.N. resolutions. Aside from reference to God’s promise, Israel has a justice issue to have their own country in their own land. This is the most outstanding claim of justice in history. This is a claim that should be recognized by the whole world in the light of Jewish historical suffering.
In her classic study “From Time Immemorial,” Joan Peters debunks the idea that most Palestinians are from long term landed descendants. She uses census figures from the Turkish Empire to show that the majority of the Palestinians are recent 20th century immigrants to the land.
The Palestinians do have one justice claim. It is the claim of the stranger in the midst of Israel. They are to be treated generously and with justice. However, this refers to a category of people who are willing to live in a land they accept as having been given to the Jews by God. This is not referring to a people that seek to destroy the Jewish State! The big justice issues are all on the side of Israel (we could refer to them as macro-justice issues). The Palestinians do have some micro-justice
issues as “strangers in the midst”. The Arabs have property in the Middle East that is so extensive that the justice issue is made even clearer.
The Bible indicates that there will be a great return to the land of Israel before Israel comes to faith in Yeshua. We see this in Ezekiel 36 and 37 as well as Matthew 23:37-39. Only after this return will Israel be filled with the Spirit. Until then, there will be ups and downs.
All the nations seek a world order that excludes the God of the Bible, who is the God of Israel. But God will not allow this. Israel, even in her unbelief challenges this view, but will fulfill that role completely when she comes into her fullness of faith through Yeshua Hamashiach.