The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
See also Arab-Israeli War
The map shows tiny Israel (yellow) and her generally hostile Arab/Muslim neighbours: there are 22 Arab states and just one Jewish state. Yet – Israel’s neighbours still want Israel’s land; they want to eliminate Israel. Why?
A Palestinian People?
By the early 20th century the land we now call Palestine/Israel was a mix of many peoples representing some 50 languages [1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica]. These communities were ‘ethnologically a chaos of all the possible human combinations’, and so did not share a common Arab identity. For instance, they included Balkans, Greeks, Syrians, Egyptians, Turks, Armenians, Italians, Persians, Kurds, Germans, Afghans, Bosnians, Sudanese, Algerians and others, link. So it is not surprising that, historically, there is no language known as Palestinian, or any Palestinian culture distinct from that of all the Arabs in the area, link. By 1917 there were 690,000 Arabs (Christian and Muslim) and 59,000 Jews in Palestine, link, but still no identifiable ‘Palestinian People’. Even the 1922 British Mandate for Palestine didn’t recognize the existence of a ‘Palestinian people’ (they were not an ethnic group) but instead referred to the local Arab population as existing non-Jewish communities.
A Palestinian Land?
Is ‘Palestine’ a historic land? Is it legitimate to use the term for the area we now call Israel? To answer this we first observe that the Hebrews entered the Land of Israel, specifically Canaan, under Joshua c1450 BC (Jos 6). This area was gradually extended by Israel’s kings (Saul, David and Solomon) but still excluded ‘Philistia’ (the land of the Philistines), a narrow coastal strip including Gaza. The Philistines were an Aegean people more closely related to Greeks than to Arabs. Linguistically, the term ‘Palestine’ originated from the Greek word pronounced Palaistina, which is derived from the Hebrew word pronounced pel-eh-sheth, meaning ‘land of the Philistines’. Historically then, the term ‘Palestine’ only applied to the narrow coastal strip of land occupied by the Philistines, and Philistia itself did not survive the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar II c600 BC.
However, that was not the end of the matter and this land definition of Palestine was later expanded by the Romans. In the 2nd century AD, the Romans renamed Judea as ‘Palaestina’ in an attempt, some say, to minimize Jewish identification with the land of Israel. In fact, it is claimed that the Roman Emperor Hadrian began using the term ‘Palestine’ for the whole Land of Israel, and unfortunately this term has prevailed over the centuries. For example, under the Ottoman Empire (1517-1917), the term ‘Palestine’ was used as a general term to describe the land south of Syria, and it was applied to the territory placed under the 1922 British Mandate. But according to Prof. Bernard Lewis, even at the start of the 20th century, ‘the land was not a country and had no frontiers, only administrative boundaries’, link.
Conclusion: there was no historic ‘Land of Palestine’ and so there can be no legitimate Arab claim to a ‘Land of Palestine’ or ‘Palestinian Land’ spanning large parts of modern Israel:
There is no such country as Palestine
[Arab leader A.B. Abdul Hadi, 1937]
There is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not”
[Arab Prof Philip Hitti (Princeton University), 1946]
Palestine does not exist at all
[Ahmed Shkari (PLO founder), 1956]
In the face of this strong historical record, some still make the case for the existence of an amorphous Palestinian territory with an identifiable population existing before the emergence of political Zionism around 1890, link. On the other hand, it is clear that this strong ethnic mix implies there was no distinctive Palestinian people at the start of the 20th century. It was only really after WWI that we find an emergence of Palestinian nationalism and an identifiable ‘Palestinian People’. Some see this as a response to the threat posed by Zionism, when waves of Jewish immigrants arrived in Palestine between 1919 and 1939. It is interesting to note that, by 1948, a substantial portion of the ‘Palestinian People’ resident in Palestine Mandate territory originated, not from that territory, but rather from the surrounding Arab lands of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt! It is claimed that the Jews were the very reason the Arabs chose to settle in the Land of Israel – jobs provided by newly established Zionist industry and agriculture lured them there.
The Legal Status of the Two-State Solution
In 2012, UN General Assembly resolution 67/19 upgraded Palestine to ‘non-member observer state’ status in the UN (like the Pope). In effect, this officially recognized a future Palestinian State. But, legally, it is internationally recognized that the UN General Assembly can only recommend the establishment of a Palestinian State (as Resolution 181 recommended the establishment of the Jewish State in 1947). It is up to States themselves to assert state-like-control over their territory and affairs.
A two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem was proposed in 1938 and 1947, and each time it was rejected by the Arab leadership. Today it is still under discussion, but again it is unlikely to succeed given the Arab position. For example, in 2011 the Palestinian leadership said, link:
We will never accept a Palestinian state without Jerusalem as its capital
To date, the Palestinian Authority maintains the following position:
- It does not recognize Israel as a Jewish State
- It maintains that Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank are Palestinian Territories
- It maintains that East Jerusalem is the capital of the future Palestinian State
- It maintains that no Israeli should be living in Palestine
Since all four of these positions are currently totally unacceptable to the Israeli leadership, then any unilateral declaration by the PA would violate the 1995 Oslo II Interim Agreement (signed by the Palestinians at the White House). Article 31(7) of this Agreement states:
Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations
This Accord is still binding, but is being flouted by the PA, the EU and the UN. So any PA attempt to change the status of these territories, namely a two-state solution without prior negotiations with Israel will violate this clause. Article 31 expressly prohibits unilateral action by either side to change the status of the West Bank and Gaza prior to reaching a negotiated permanent status agreement. Last, and most importantly, the Bible is expressly against a two-state solution. Those who attempt such a division of the land should note God’s warning:
I will enter into judgement with them … on behalf of My people Israel … they have divided up My land (Joel 3.2)
Resolving the Palestinian Problem
Palestinians are Suffering
Palestinians and their families are indeed suffering. Since 2000, it is claimed that Israeli soldiers have killed more than 1,400 Palestinian children, link. Israel has imposed severe restriction on Palestinian movement (see video). Many Palestinians have suffered multiple forced displacements, having lost their homes and livelihoods more than once – typical months see over 60 Palestinian homes and other structures demolished (including wells), link. To help combat this, Israelis, Palestinians and international volunteers work with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, ICAHD, to rebuild Palestinian homes demolished by Israel.
Most sectors of the economy are in decline and 80% of factories are shut in Gaza, link. Since the conflict is mainly over loss of land, link, Palestinian agriculture suffers from numerous problems, including blockades to exportation of produce and confiscation and destruction of wells. Palestinian farmers in the Jordan Valley face restrictions, on access to water and electricity networks, link. Many Palestinians are living below the poverty line (nearly 1 in 5 in the West Bank and 2 out if 5 in Gaza Strip, link, and over 50% of young graduates are unemployed, link. On the other hand, due to added benefits, it is claimed that Palestinians are quick to leave their Palestinian employees and work for Israelis, link.
Is the Arab leadership failing the Palestinians, link? Please read on.
The Biblical Solution
The only lasting and perfect solution is to be found in the Bible. The Bible instructs the people of Israel how they should treat foreigners (non-Jews). Old Testament Israel was commanded to love foreigners (Deut 10.19) and to let them live normal lives amongst them:
When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall do him no wrong … (he) … shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself
This instruction is timeless and applies now and to future Israel in the millennial age. During the millennium the land is divided up amongst the tribes of Israel and the stranger amongst them is also allotted an inheritance:
And they (strangers) shall be to you as the native-born among the sons of Israel; they shall be allotted an inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel
So how does this instruction apply to Palestinians today? It seems in 1989 Ariel Sharon wanted to put this injunction into practice:
From my childhood, I have believed Jews and Arabs can live together, and I believe now they should live together. All the rights to this country, to the land of Israel – especially Judea and Samaria – are Jewish … but everyone who lives in the country should have all the rights of the country.
[Ariel Sharon, TIME, April 1989]
The Root Cause of All Conflicts with Israel
A Spiritual Battle
Yes – there is a root cause, a single principal cause, and it is not political or ideological. To find it we highlight a little biblical history, when the people of Israel (the twelve tribes) rebelled against God. After repeated prophetic warnings, all twelve tribes were eventually scattered throughout the nations (Deut 4.27). Scattering was complete around 586 BC, although a remnant returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, the place of Jesus’ dedication. Here we have a clear answer to our question – the root cause of all conflicts with Israel is related to Jesus:
the dragon (Satan) … persecuted the woman (Israel) who gave birth to the male child (Jesus)
This clearly correlates Israel’s conflicts/persecutions with the spiritual entity Satan. Why? According to the Bible, Israel is God’s chosen witness and servant in the world, and through Israel came the Messiah, Jesus Christ (Isa 43.10, Gen 22.18, Gal 3.16). So Satan hates God’s witness (Jews) and all true followers of Jesus (Christians).
The Arab Nations
Some see today’s Arab-Israeli, and more locally the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be rooted in biblical history, namely in Esau and the Amalekites, link. Others say the root-cause of today’s conflict can be traced back to Abraham’s time and to human fallibility. They site disputes between Jacob and Esau, and in particular between Isaac and Ishmael. But the Bible doesn’t stress a long-term conflict between Israelite and Ishmael’s descendants. In fact, God blesses Ishmael and makes his descendants (the Arabs) ‘a great nation’ (Gen 17.19-21)!
So according the the Bible the Arab nations themselves are not the problem. Rather, as we have just seen, the root-cause of the Arab-Israeli/Israeli-Palestinian conflict is actually a battle between spiritual powers, and this manifests itself as a conflict between truth (as revealed in God’s word the Bible) and error (as perpetuated by Satanic deception). So who are the earthly players in this spiritual battle?
Who Wages the Battle between Truth and Error?
The battle is seen in the persecution of Israel. The timeline of Jewish persecution after Christ’s birth is well documented, link, as for example in the 15th century expulsion of Jews from much of Europe, and in the 20th century Nazi holocaust. Today the persecution is carried out via political and media bias against Israel, link, and also through the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the latter context it is important to distinguish between Arabs and Muslims. Before the arrival of Islam the Arabs were either pagan or followed Judaism or Christianity. But from about 620 AD Islam unified many of the Arabs, using military might (as today) when people wouldn’t convert willingly. Today, most, but not all Arabs are Muslim, whilst only some 18% of Muslims are Arab.
It was only when Islam took over the Arabic nations from the 7th century that the earthly players in the spiritual battle were identified. The truth is God’s truth handed down by the prophets of God’s people, Israel – truth was handed to the Jews. The error is manifested in international politics, the international media and especially in the erroneous ideology of political Islam, link, link, that is, forms of Islam pursuing political objectives. The aggression of political Islam (and therefore Arabic nations) towards the Jews is driven for example by some hadiths (collected sayings of the Prophet Muhammad):
The hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say: ‘O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him’
(Sahih Bukhari 4.52.177)
Politically, in recent years this conflict has been fueled partly by a combination of so-called Zionism (returning Jews with a vision for Zion or Jerusalem), and repeated Arab refusal to recognize Israel, or even a two-state solution. So we must recognize that today’s Arab-Israeli / Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a spiritual battle, and politics, the media, and particularly the ideology of political Islam are vehicles for the practical expression of this battle. Sadly, it is the ideology of militant Islamic leaders that leads to the suffering of the Palestinian people. More …