The Middle East Conflict

Socially sensitive people are greatly concerned about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that continues to rage in the Middle East. Unfortunately, midguided political and religious commentators are adding fuel to the controversy. Who has the legitimate claim to the so-called “Holy Land”? This week’s Penpoints addresses this issue.
By Wayne Jackson | Christian Courier

No narration available

There is an old saying: “No one can unscramble scrambled eggs.”That cliche is true.And in no circumstance is the application of that quip more apropos than in the current Middle East conflagration.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a “scrambled” mess that has a meager possibility of resolution in the foreseeable future.The blood-thirsty Palestinians, with their Muslim background, would like to see all of the people of the state of Israel gone —preferably dead!The Israelis equally long to see the infidel Palestinians banished to some remote desert —at least somewhere out of their “sacred” territory.But both want the same real estate, and thus far each has been unwilling to work seriously for a peaceable coexistence.And definitely this is a situation where it takes two to tango, yet both have been doing the war dance!

It does not require a “Solomon” to see that if these hostile parties do not attempt to find a workable, side-by-side plan for neighborliness, like Eugene Field’s “gingham dog and calico cat,” they will consume one another eventually.

Just who does own the deed to the land over which these feuding peoples are willing to shed so much blood?That’s like asking who owns Texas— the “Texicans” or the Mexicans?It once belonged to the latter, you know.Who has the title rights to the vast western region of our nation?The Apaches, the Comanches, the Sioux, the Utes —or the U.S. government?Need we rehearse who took what from whom?The tragic point is: history cannot be undone.Men must learn to live together in peace, and, to some extent, accept the long-standing status quo, if there is to be tranquility and prosperity in their lives.

Complicating this issue is the belief, entertained by Israel, that she has a “divine right” to the territory east of the Mediterranean.And this conviction is championed by a number of her theological allies— namely, religious “millennialists” and certain politically conservative commentators of the same tainted persuasion.A news spokesman recently asked: “What is Israel to do to preserve her God-given land?”For the sake of accuracy— let us set the record straight with the historical facts.

There was a time when the land east of the Jordan River, and that between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, did not belong to the children of Abraham.It was inhabited by Canaanite tribes that had possessed it for centuries.There came a day, however, when these pagan people became so engulfed in wickedness (their “cup” of evil being filled to the brim — Gen. 15:16), that Jehovah had them destroyed from their homeland (at least substantially so).And the instrument of removal was the Israelite people.The Old Testament book of Joshua records the divinely-orchestrated invasion.

Israel’s retention of the territory, however, was dependent upon her fidelity to the Lord —which faithfulness, in fact, progressively waned. Finally, Jehovah brought the invading Assyrians against the northern kingdom of Israel (cf. Isa. 10:1ff), and then the hostile Babylonians against the southern kingdom of Judah (cf. Jer. 25), and the Hebrew spiritual misfits were ushered into foreign lands.A point that many historians conveniently overlook is that Israel’s original deed to Canaan was conditional.Joshua 23:14-16 speaks to this very point.

“And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing has failed of all the good things which Jehovah your God spoke concerning you; all have come to pass unto you, not one thing has failed thereof.And it shall come to pass, that as all the good things have come upon you of which Jehovah your God spoke to you, so will Jehovah bring upon you all the evil things, until he has destroyed you from off this good land which Jehovah your God has given you. When you transgress the covenant of Jehovah your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods, and bow down yourselves to them; then will the anger of Jehovah be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land which he has given unto you.”

The return of the Israelite people from captivity, in the post-exile era, was a temporary reclamation of the land in view of the unfolding plan of human redemption— which plan was to find its fruition in the coming of Israel’s Messiah, Jesus Christ.Actually, the original selection of this small piece of land was in view of the Messianic hope.When that was accomplished, the people of Israel lost any legitimate, divine claim to the land they now occupy.

Particularly is this the case in view of the Jewish rejection of Christ (Jn. 1:12).When the Romans invaded Palestine in the war of A.D. 66-70, as instruments of sacred justice, they disfranchised the Hebrews of their long-cherished territory (cf. Mt. 22:1-7).Since that time, the disputed land has belonged to Israel no more than to anyone else.

If one insists on contending that the Mediterranean territory is still Israel’s by “divine right,” he might as well expand his theory and allege that all of the land initially promised to the Hebrews is now their “God given” territory as well. The extent of the real estate promised to them through Abraham (Gen. 15:18), which they eventually possessed (1 Kgs. 4:21), was vastly larger than the region they now occupy.

For a more extensive description of the land promise, see Numbers 34.The pledged territory was to extend from the entrance of Hamath in the north of Canaan, to Kadesh-barnea in the south.From the River of Egypt (Wadi el Arish) in the west, to the Euphrates in the east.This encompassed a region of some 60,000 square miles, comparable to almost five of the New England states (see J.L. Hurlbut, A Bible Atlas, New York: Rand McNally, 1954 edition, p. 13).

Oddly, however, no one seems to be staking out this territory, or contending for Israel’s right to this vast region!

Whatever the political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian hostility may be, it will not be achieved as long as either side zealously pursues the slaughter of the other, under the misguided notion that they are doing the will of either Yahweh or Allah.

Peace will only come when estranged peoples acknowledge that all created men bear the image of God (however marred it may have become), and thus, as human beings, have intrinsic worth; and that it is the will of the Creator that there be “peace among men in whom he is well-pleased” (Lk. 2:14).