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The United Nations has condemned Israel for continuing to build settlements in the West Bank. The motion carried because the USA turned away from its usual policy of vetoing motions that censure Israel. However, with President Obama in his last few weeks of office, he instructed his UN ambassador to take a stance which probably more accurately reflects his, and his administration’s, true feelings on the subject. Relations between Israel, and especially between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama are distant and cold.
This will be a largely symbolic gesture because President-Elect Trump has already stated that “things will be different after January 20th”, when he takes office. We have reason to assume that President Trump and his government will be considerably more supportive of the only democratic nation in the Middle East.
The General Assembly of the UN has long been obsessed with condemning Israel. In 2015, for example, it entertained 20 motions criticizing Israel and 3 for the rest of the world! The other three consisted of one for North Korea, one for Iran and one for the Syrian regime of Assad. Given the number of tyrannical governments in the world and the absence of basic human rights in scores of nations, this represents an almost laughable and cynical hypocrisy.
But I wonder how Daoud feels about all this? I met him some years ago near where he lives, just outside Bethlehem in the West Bank which is Palestinian Territory. Daoud lives on his family farm which consists mostly of olive groves. Unusually for such an oral society, he has authentic deeds for the farm dating back to the nineteenth century during Ottoman times.
One day he heard a disturbance in his olive grove and went to investigate. Orthodox Jews, recently immigrated from the USA, were setting up camp on his farm. He told them to get off his land, but they threatened him with automatic rifles. The Palestinian courts have no real authority to decide on these matters (think about that!) so he took his case to the Israeli judicial authorities.
The legal process moved slowly and was very expensive. Meanwhile, a large perimeter of razor wire was erected by the settlers and they began to bulldoze the trees which were hundreds of years old and the most valuable asset Daoud and family owned. Then the Israeli Defense Force sent soldiers to guard the perimeter which kept expanding into the family farm.
When I last spoke to him he said he had spent about three times the value of the property just trying to hold onto the family land. (Few of us in the West have ever lived, as a family, on one piece of land over a period of hundreds of years so we don’t readily identify with the depth of attachment they feel.) However, the courts just kept creating more and more procedures for him to comply with before they would make a decision. When we talked, that had been going on for years. I so admired his determination to prevent this dispute from becoming violent, even though he is unlikely to ever get justice.
So, that is just one story of how a settlement can start and how it impacts those who already live on the land. As anyone knows, every story is different and some claims are bogus, but there are thousands of displaced families.
Is this right? Is the government of Israel fulfilling the divine mandate to all governments to create a just society? (1 Peter 2:13,14) Or does that only apply to Jews who live in Israel?
Oh, I didn’t mention that Daoud and his family are a “disappearing breed” in the Middle East–they are committed Christians. He told me that he was explaining his situation to a group of Christians visiting from an evangelical church and they gently explained that he had no right to live on his family farm but should move to another country because God had given the land to the Jews.
Is that our best answer? Does that take into account what Paul wrote about who is a true Jew? In Romans 2:28,29 he writes, “For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God.” Does this scripture apply to Daoud and family or is it set aside because he is Palestinian?
It seems that quite a number of Christians feel we have an obligation to support Israel unconditionally–so we can be blessed! Doesn’t that simply set aside the New Covenant in Christ Jesus in favour of the Abrahamic Covenant? But Paul addresses that in Romans too. He goes to lengths to explain that Abraham was justified before God by faith, not by the law of circumcision.
So, before we assume that we, our nation or nations, should unconditionally support Israel, we should do some of the hard work required to search the scriptures and understand the issues, then grapple with them in prayer and thought. It’s not a simple process! I well remember the struggle I went through after walking the length of Israel twice and meeting Jews and Arabs alike and listening to their stories. As I tried to make scriptural sense of it all, I thought and prayed and read the Bible and worked on it for days as I stayed by the Sea of Galilee. I eventually came to some conclusions and have worked since then to keep adjusting my thoughts to new information and more study of the Scriptures.
Finally, I don’t want to leave anyone in doubt: I believe the modern state of Israel came into existence by the will of God and I believe it has continued to exist by His will–although not because it is a Godly nation. It is a modern, secular, Western nation founded on socialist assumptions and its people are from very diverse religious backgrounds.
Very few Israeli citizens have a faith in Jesus, under 20,000 out of 8 million citizens. An increasing number are Orthodox or ultra-Orthodox, nearly a million, and they are outspoken in their rejection of Jesus and the Christian message. Sometimes the “support” a nation needs is of a prophetic nature. The prophets of the Old Testament very often blessed Israel by clearly defining their sins, but they could only do that with God’s anointing if they loved the nation and the people sacrificially, even to the point of death.
Israel needs friends like that today.