A new initiative
Segments and leaders of the evangelical church are being drawn away from the traditional and mainstream position on Israel by an initiative that claims to take the high moral ground by proclaiming a commitment to social justice. This invariably means that Israel constitutes an occupying oppressive regime and that the Palestinians are the ones requiring social justice. To bolster this narrative images of the defensive barrier wall are displayed to achieve maximum propaganda effect. After all images like this return our thoughts to the Berlin Wall, the Belfast Wall and the walls of one type or another put in place by the Apartheid regime. One has to admit that the imagery is powerful and it takes well informed minds to counter them. The lack of such information has duped many evangelicals; some of them very well known. This new initiative, designed to discredit pro-Israel evangelicals breeds on ignorance and in fact on lies! It also seeks to smear Christian Zionists as uncompassionate Palestinian and Arab haters. This is just not true! David Solway observes that, “The usual understanding of Israel as an aggressive, colonial, apartheid state robbing the Palestinians of their heritage is quite possibly the greatest political scam of modern times. It is the outcome of a mixture of historical amnesia, ideological prejudice and reflex hostility, which keep it mind-proof.”
An old story
Newt Gingrich, a Republican Party candidate for the US Presidency recently shocked the media world when he stated that the Palestinians were an “invented people.” However, being the astute and very well qualified historian that he is, no one was able to challenge him; not even the liberal anti-Israel academic world! His facts were “water-tight!” This is just a reality. This however does not mean that he was demeaning the people who now claim a Palestinian national identity. It simply means that he told the truth and, as we found out, the truth hurts! Social justice must be built on the truth. This is why it was necessary to dismantle the Apartheid regime since the awful record of white minority government and oppression was true. It could not be disputed; but in the Middle East we have a claim to land by a people that were in fact invented and indeed never did have a history of national statehood! The people who do are the Jews and their claim has a four thousand year history!! Isn’t that amazing; but you would never believe it if you listened to the narrative projected by the “new initiative people.” When we “sell the truth” we will, in the end, fall. The book of Proverbs declares, “Buy the truth, and do not sell it…” (Proverbs 23:23) Social justice is placed in jeopardy when the truth is “sold.”
At the beginning of the 20th Century and up until 1948 all peoples living in British Mandated Palestine were designated “Palestinian”, even Jews! I have personally seen many identity documents testifying to this. It is a fact! This means that there never was a Palestinian People as we know them today. The truth is the new Palestinian people were invented by the PLO as a tool to further their struggle to completely destroy the State of Israel. Yasser Arafat, probably the most famous Palestinian, was in fact an Egyptian! This “invention” took root in 1964 at a time when the PLO and its various partners had everything they say they want now; even the Old City of Jerusalem, and yet they drew up a charter that called for the destruction and removal of Jewish sovereignty over all the remaining areas of the region. This they called the “Phased Plan” for the removal of the State of Israel. Note; they drew up a charter calling for the destruction of Israel and not a constitution calling for Palestinian statehood! In short they created a people group as part of their strategy to destabilize all of Israel and, as they put it then, “drive the Jews into the sea.” This is the truth and social justice must take this into consideration. This in turn means that the Palestinians never existed before as a state and therefore Israel has never occupied their so called territory. Israel’s claim to all the territory west of the Jordan River is also legal under international law as it was verified by the League of Nations in 1922 and thereafter confirmed by the United Nations. This too is the truth! How embarrassing to the “new boys club!”
This of course brings us to the Oslo initiative of the 1990s. The fact that Israel, by a process of negotiation, agreed to cede territory to the Palestinians changed the equation but it did mean that Israel, that had a right to the land by international law, was demonstrating a commitment to social justice by agreeing to give it away. It also meant that if she remained on it after the agreements she would be an occupier. However, it also meant that the Palestinians, through their leadership, would have to be honest peace partners and disavow violence. Thus up until the Oslo Accords Israel was not an occupying force. As we all know the Oslo agreements were hammered out between the Israeli leadership headed up by Yitzhak Rabin and the PLO leadership headed up by Yasser Arafat. The truth is Arafat was a dishonest broker and peace partner; he never intended to keep his side of the agreements and even said so in Johannesburg in 1994 just five months after he had shaken the hands of Bill Clinton and Yitzhak Rabin on the lawns of the White House. All the while Israel, by September 2000, had fully withdrawn from the Palestinian territories in compliance with the Oslo dictates.
Arafat therefore, and by implication the Palestinians, did not negotiate in good faith. Thus, in what way do they now cry out for social justice? In the end, as it has always been, the Palestinian form of social justice is the complete and utter destruction of Israel. This is the old story that never changes and, if you doubt it, just take a look at the school books given to their children and listen to the sermons preached by their clerics. Palestinian Media Watch will be more than willing to give you unedited copies of these! Golda Meir was right when she stated in 1957 that, “Peace will come when the Arabs love their children more than they hate Israel.”
Moreover, consider the recent Palestinian alliance with Hamas and who can doubt the truth? So, given the duplicity that was employed under the Oslo agreements, it is clear that those who require justice, given the painful concessions that they made up until September 2000, are the Israelis! They made ridiculous agreements in their pursuit of peace including being willing to hand over the Temple Mount to the Palestinians, arming them and offering them 97% of the West Bank and, if this was not enough, they unilaterally withdrew from Gaza and were rewarded with 12,000 missiles! You talk of social justice; well surely the displaced Gush Katif people would like to receive it! But sadly this narrative is denied, distorted and conveniently ignored because of an old hatred and ideology that cannot abide the existence of a Jewish State in the region. And this too is the truth!
The fact is; the Palestinian leadership has time and time again robbed their people of justice and should be held accountable. By now they could have had a state with significant parts of Jerusalem as its capital but they do not; all because they could not embrace social justice, courage and honesty.
The new reality
That a people now exist called Palestinians is a reality. Three generations have brought this people to a place of viable existence. No one can or should deny it. This means that at least two generations have been trapped in the never ending cycle of violence and intrigue and yet it will surprise many to learn that today Palestinians on the West Bank enjoy a higher standard of living, education and economic prosperity than their counterparts in the region and thus the gross domestic product of their region is in strong positive territory and expected to grow even more during the next fiscal year. Why is this? Because their economy is intertwined with one of the most successful economies in the world today; that of Israel’s. Given the chaos of the so called “Arab Spring” the West Bank is an island of prosperity! Sounds like economic justice to me or am I mistaken?
Sadly at a political level the plotting and hatred continues unabated and so Mahmoud Abbas, as noted, has recently cemented his relationship, and therefore that of his people, with Hamas. There must be no mistake about the significance of this in that it puts the Palestinians on a collision course with Israel. Since this partnership affirms their commitment, as it always was, to annihilate Israel the Israelis must tighten security to protect their citizens from harm. At a joint statement after their meeting Abbas and Mashaal of Hamas said, “We are determined to resist the enemy and achieve our national goals.” So, once again there will be no social justice for the Palestinians as the Israeli pullout from Gaza demonstrated. Hamas did not see this as a token of goodwill and an opportunity to build a new economic and social order for their people but rather as an act of weakness and immediately set about launching missile attacks in their thousands against the southern villages of Israel. Is this social justice? Jihad against Israel will continue and the Palestinian people will pay the price in having to be continuously subjected to checkpoints, searches, general security measures and barrier walls. We should all weep over this human tragedy and truly Jesus does weep at the checkpoint but not for reasons espoused by some evangelical leaders today! If you ask the attendees at the “Christ at the Check Point Conference” who is responsible for Palestinian suffering their answer will be Israel but the facts tell a different story. But this “different story” will never be heard because it is not politically correct to tell it.
The need for compassion
So, where should the church be in all of this? The answer lies in first getting hold of the truth and the facts surrounding the big picture. I have very briefly given these above. When we do this we are better enabled to put forward the call for social justice as we can get a comprehensive perspective of the issues. Social justice will take hold when leaders are transparent, honest and really committed to peace. What does the history of this conflict tell us? I will leave my readers to answer that question. No wonder Paul exhorted us to place leaders at the very top of the prayer priority list. Secondly, we need to recognize that there is a small picture that begs for our attention as well. That is, that real men, women, boys and girls are trapped in this conflict on both sides and they need help, care, love and compassion. In Jesus’ day whole communities of one type or another were caught in the conflict that Rome brought to the region. Jesus, almost exclusively ignored the conflict but healed the sick, fed the hungry, loved the stranger (even the Roman one) and lifted up the broken-hearted. He blessed the children, sat with sinners and taught the multitudes about God. Scripture affirms that He moved from one check point to another as He travelled from the Galilee to Jerusalem and never said a word about them! He knew that the big picture was in the hands of the Father as it is today.
So, our hearts should break as we witness ordinary Palestinian people recalling the trauma of having to live caged in behind walls and impeded on a daily basis by security checks etc. We should also weep for Jewish families that have had their children brutally murdered and torn from them. This is no way to live and these images, projected in a way that divorces them from the bigger picture, can turn anyone into a radical activist and they do; on both sides of the divide. A distorted image is no foundation upon which to build social justice.
Thus, while some evangelicals gather to reinforce their distorted narrative and lay blame for everything at Israel’s door let us ask them how many millions of Shekels they have invested in the social upliftment of Palestinians? Good question. I am the erstwhile leader of one of the biggest Christian Zionist organizations in the world. I therefore know for a fact that considerable amounts of money were constantly invested in Palestinian communities. In fact the organization distributed its social welfare relief into the region strictly according to its population demographics. We cared for everyone just as Jesus did and still do. This is social justice on the move! It is not selective but gives “voice” to the biblical truth that Jesus loves all people the same. He has no favorites. Compassion is not endless words and an attempt to win an ideological battle. The truth is the truth but compassion reaches to the heart and says because God loves you I will help you. One cannot be unmoved by the tears that flow down children’s faces or by the distress that comes to mothers and fathers trying to get by in a world that traps them in endless discouragement.
The Christian message demands that we hold to the truth, that which is biblical and historical, and that we bring to all the peoples of the Middle East a message of love and hope. When we do this we will be mediators of social justice.