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Christians and Israel // Part IV
Israel, Palestine and Modern History
This is the final part in a 4 part series.
From 1948-1970, more than 1 million Jews relocated to Israel. Throughout most of this time, Israel was frequently attacked by what Arabs call fedayeen. Fedayeen is an Arabic term for “those who sacrifice themselves.” In the Arabic world, they are often civilian or militia groups that play a role in greater, organized military campaigns.
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The Palestinian fedayeen were inspired by guerrilla movements in places like Vietnam and Latin America. Fedayeen groups were often disconnected and had different aims. But the one thing they agreed on was defeating the Zionists.
The fedayeen is what groups like Hamas, the PLO, DLFP and others were formed and shaped out of.
In Israel, the fedayeen almost always attacked civilian targets. Mostly in the Gaza Strip, which was at that time controlled by Egypt. Remember, the Gaza Strip and West Bank were not taken by Israel during their fight for independence. As they were supposed to form the “Arab state” according to the UN plan.
By the 1960’s, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt, along with the fedayeen were in open conflict with the Israeli military.
In 1964, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was formed by the Arab League for the expressed purpose of eliminating the state of Israel and establishing an Arab state over the entire landmass of Israel, not just the UN partitions. Where did Hamas enter the picture? We’ll get to that.
The Six-Day War
In May of 1967, Egypt expelled UN peacekeepers who had been stationed near Israel since the 1950s, blocked Israel’s access to the Red Sea and massed its army near the border. Israel’s neighbors, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon began to do the same. In June, all four countries invaded Israel while PLO militants and various fedayeen groups carried out internal battles from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Within 6 days, Israel captured and occupied Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula. They didn’t just fend off the attack, they took vast areas of land from all four countries that attacked them.
In fact, after the Six-Day War, the land mass of Israel increased by over 300%
Aftermath, The Intifadas + Hamas
Up until 1967, the Gaza Strip and West Bank were mostly left alone by the Israelis. Jordan possessed a large amount of control over the West Bank, and Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip. For the first time, Israel occupied and controlled these areas.
Following the 1967 war, Israel and Jewish people were attacked by the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization). Israeli athletes were massacred during the 1972 Summer Olympics, a plane filled with Israelis was hijacked and rescued and they were invaded again by the Egyptian and Syrian armies in 1973. Israel eventually fought them to a stalemate. Egypt wanted Israel to return the Sinai Peninsula, and Israel wanted recognition from Egypt as a nation. Both countries leaders and populations were war-weary and mostly supportive of peace efforts. Anwar Sadat, Egypt’s president visited Israel in 1977 and addressed the Israeli parliament. By 1979, Israel signed a peace treaty with Egypt, was recognized by Egypt as a sovereign nation, and returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt.
After this, tensions between Jordan, Syria and Egypt were mostly cooled.
The First Intifada (1987-1993)
This angered the PLO because although Israel had returned the Sinai Peninsula, it still occupied land they considered the nation of Palestine. In 1987, Palestinians began to attack the Israeli military and government stationed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This led to a six year period of unrest called the First Intifada. Intifada means “uprising” in Arabic. During this time, the PLO was designated as a terrorist group by the US Government, and the PLO founded the nation of Palestine in 1988. The PLO however, sought to establish a secular state. Many Arabs wanted an Islamic state. Hamas was founded as an alternative to the PLO for the purpose of establishing an Islamic state in Palestine.
This led to peace negotiations between President Bill Clinton, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. These became known as the Oslo Accords.
These accords established mutual recognition between Israel and Palestine and made concessions for the Palestinians to self-govern certain areas of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Ultimately, these accords would have mixed results. Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish extremist in 1995, Palestinians continued to attack Jewish civilians and Israel expanded their presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip instead of diminishing it.
The Second Intifada (2000-2005)
Tensions boiled over again after the mixed efforts of the Oslo Accords, and the failure of the following Camp David Summit.
The Palestinians began suicide bombing civilians and launching rockets into homes, businesses, schools, hospitals and other civilian targets. A disengagement plan was created between Palestinians and Israelis after the death of Yasser Arafat - who many thought engineered the uprising and kept it alive.
However, Palestinian leadership was splintered among the PLO, Hamas and other jihadist and fedayeen groups.
In 2002 Israel began construction of a 440 mile West Bank barrier to diminish suicide bombings and incursions into Israel by militant groups. As of today, 62% of it has been completed.
In 2005, Israel ceased its occupation of the Gaza Strip, but maintains control of the airspace, sea access and several border crossings in and out of Gaza. Israel also has constructed a similar border around Gaza.
This is where it gets messy.
Its always been a little messy. But things are especially messy now.
Within Palestine, there is a massive divide.
The PLO and Hamas have been in a state of intense conflict since the end of the Second Intifada in 2005.
The PLO governs the majority of the West Bank and as history shows, is more willing to have discussions with Israel around peace. It has been historically supported by countries like Egypt and Jordan, who are also neighbors of Israel.
Hamas governs the Gaza Strip and has significant popularity among the Palestinian population. Hamas is currently considered a terrorist organization by the US and the EU. Hamas does not want peace with Israel, nor does it want independence alongside Israel. They seek the uncompromising eradication of Israel as a place and people and the establishment of the Islamic nation of Palestine. Hamas is supported by Iran, Qatar and other more Islamic nations around Israel.
Many people may think that Palestine is a united front with a united cause, but it has been splintered and divided for many years. The goals of the PLO have changed over time too. At their founding, they sought the destruction of Israel and were labeled a terrorist organization. Now they seek some kind of peaceful coexistence.
What led to what’s happening now?
Hamas now is the dominant political force throughout Palestine and frequently practice terrorism towards Israel to achieve their aims. What are their aims?
Some people have trouble understanding why Hamas would attack. Why did the PLO attack throughout the 70’s and 80’s? Why did the Arab League invade when Israel declared its independence?
It’s not because they want to establish a Palestinian state. That is a secondary goal. In 1948, when the Arab League invaded Israel, their goal was the goal of Hamas today. The elimination of Jews from Israel. They never intended to found a Palestinian state, their sole focus was to push all the Jews “into the sea.” This is the same goal Hamas has today. It’s why it seems so chaotic and insane. Their goal is simple: To destroy Israel. People and place. This was the goal of the Arab League in 1948, the PLO in 1988 (until they changed with international pressure), and its the goal of Hamas in 2023.
In recent years, Israel has “normalized relations” - read: established peace - between themselves and a number of Arab nations. They have been in the process of talks with Saudi Arabia recently. This is an issue for Palestinians. Why? Because they feel abandoned by their allies, the Arab League. Although the Arab nations are seeking peace, the Palestinians feel that the Arab League is abandoning them.
Israel governance is also much different than the rest of the world. They do not have an interest in making Arabs citizens of Israel, and they also don’t necessarily want Palestine to possess the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The West Bank and the Gaza Strip have a population of 5 million Arabs, all of whom are not citizens of Israel. Israel has never sought to actually annex these areas into their country and make the Palestinians citizens.
Right now, Jews have a clear majority in Israel. If Palestinians were granted citizenship, they would almost instantaneously make up 50% of Israel’s population, and at most they would gain the democratic power to end Israel as a Jewish state and establish the Palestinian state. At least, they would increase hostility that is already at a fever pitch. The Israeli Army is ~90% Jewish, imagine if Palestinians voted in an Arab Prime Minister or Minister of Defense?
The Arab League (which has 22 member countries) now also unanimously supports the creation of a Palestinian state. While more Middle Eastern states have joined Jordan and Egypt and established formal relations with Israel, they still demand a Two-State Solution. If Israel annexed the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Arab League, including Egypt and Jordan could turn against Israel - that is something Israel fears.
The UN, and even the United States still support a two-state solution in Israel. No U.S. President (including Donald Trump) has ever supported any other solution. Donald Trump only supported an Israeli annexation of 30% of the West Bank and proposed to allow Palestine to have the Gaza Strip and the rest of the West Bank.
However, all of this is only theoretical, because history shows that Palestinian leadership is not cohesive, and there will always be mainline groups within Palestine that make their sole focus the destruction of Israel. No matter the cost.
There is not a simple solution to this conflict. There never has been.
Ok, so, what do we do?
The history of Israel and its people is complex and complicated. Some people will say that it is more complicated than it has ever been. However, when you look at history. This is just more of the same.
Is this the end of the world? Maybe. Maybe not. Jesus said we wouldn’t know the “time or the hour” (Matthew 24:36). Conflict being present in Israel is the norm. Not the exception. During the destruction of the Temple in 70AD, people knew it must be the end of the world. During the muslim conquests and the Crusades, it was obvious Jesus was coming back soon. During the Ottoman Empire, when 50% of Christians and almost all Jews were under muslim rule, it was clearer than ever. Then came World War I. The whole entire world at war for the first time? This must be the end. But WWII was just around the corner, and so was the Holocaust. 6 million+ people were systematically eradicated by an entire nation. In addition to the holocaust, World War II saw more than 80 million casualties throughout the world. 4% of the world’s population at that point. That would be if 320 million people were killed in a conflict today. That’s almost the entire population of the United States.
So, no, the signs don’t point to the end of the world. The world has been in a much worse place within the past 100 years. So has Israel.
People have been predicting the end of the world since the world has existed. Eventually, they will be right. Even a blind dog finds a bone. Is it profitable to focus on the tribulation, rapture and end times? In my experience. No. Although, I’m always open to being wrong.
There is possibly nowhere on the planet that has seen more war or strife than Israel. The Romans imposed their will, so did the Muslims, Catholics and Ottomans.
In modern times, we have become accustomed to trying to bring about a peace through human means, and believing that peace is a possibility. When we look at the history of the world, we have succeeded in many ways in this initiative. It may not seem like it, but the world is more peaceful than it ever has been. People are healthier, living longer and more secure. The Bible tells us to pursue peace. But that doesn’t mean we can force peace, or require it. Especially out of nations we are not citizens of.
When we look at the history of the Holy Land, we see thousands of years of history that tell us that peace seems to be impossible. That doesn’t mean that we develop an “it is what it is” mentality. But we must be aware that we also can run the risk - like the crusaders - of getting too invested to the point where we do evil things in the name of good, because we are fighting for what WE think is important within a place like Israel.
Ultimately, Jesus is the only one who will bring peace to this place. That has been prophesied throughout Scripture and will one day be seen. Some people tend to use this as an excuse to be apathetic towards Israel and the things that take place there.
This brutal history of Israel makes me think of what Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:12 - For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
This verse takes on new meaning when we look at Israel. There is something spiritual and sacred about the land that God gave the Jews, and there is a role that we play in it. Don’t miss this, because many Christians do. They think that because we don’t “fight against flesh and blood” that the Bible gives us permission to not fight. This verse precedes the armor of God that Paul says God gives to us to withstand these very spiritual attacks.
Whether you want to believe in it or not, spiritual warfare exists. And we see this warfare played out in the practical world in Israel a thousand years ago, just as much as we do today.
What are the practical steps we should take?
Let’s look at this in the context of Ephesians 6:13-19 //
*13 *Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.
Belt of Truth
*14 *Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth…
Most importantly, what are the Biblical facts. What does God’s word tell us to do? (See part I). But also, how can we be governed by reason and actual facts, and not distorted propaganda and politicized information?
Body Armor (Breastplate) of Righteousness
and the body armor of God’s righteousness.
Righteousness here means God’s way of doing things. It also means what is right according to God. The Biblically righteous cause is Israel’s cause. Scripture is clear on that. But that does not mean that we support or perpetuate a lack of peace or injustice towards Palestinians or anyone else. By supporting Israel, we are not abandoning God’s ways of love, peace, and justice for all people.
Yes, we are wading deep into gray area, but that comes with the territory of dealing with humanity. We are full of contradictions. We must find a way to advocate for God’s ways, God’s people (the Jews) and all those caught in the crossfire. Those things are not in conflict with each other. Even if sometimes people and their actions make it messy.
Shoes of the Gospel of Peace
*15 *For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.
This is a role that America and other nations have sought to play for more than 100 years in the Middle Esat. But peace doesn’t come through military might in God’s world. It comes through the revelation that Jesus is the one and only Messiah, and he must rule our hearts. This statement is challenging for Jews, because it seems to defy their belief, when in fact it doesn’t. It completes the work God has been doing in them all along.
The only peace the Middle East will experience is the peace of Jesus found in the Gospel. Pray that God would reach this region of the world with the Gospel. The peace God brings is only found in Jesus. But remember these are shoes, so it’s not just about prayer, it’s about being activated in our time, talent and treasure to reach this part of the world.
Shield of Faith
*16 *In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.
Psalm 146 says not to place our trust in “in mortal men who cannot save.” At the end of the day, no person is able to fight this battle. Maybe you think having the “right man” in the office of the President will help, but this land has been filled with war and bloodshed for thousands of years before America ever showed up.
The faith that we have is placed in God. It is not the end until it’s the end. God still has a great plan, and we must hold to our trust and belief in him and act accordingly.
People who get too focused on all the fear aspects of this demonstrate a lack of faith in God. They’re scared of a war. They’re scared of the “national day of Jihad.” They claim to be people of faith, but lock themselves in their homes, helicopter over their children and place their face in evil.
How does a person place their faith in evil? When they believe and assume that evil will somehow prevail, and that bad things are going to happen. You’re going to have faith in something. Do you have faith that God has a good plan, and that things will get better, not worse? Or do you have faith that the world is ending, evil is prevailing and bad things are going to happen to you and those you love because of all of these things taking place?
A definition of faith is “divine risk” that means that you use wisdom, but live your life and trust God.
Helmet of Salvation
*17 *Put on salvation as your helmet,
Jesus always brings salvation. The existence of Israel is proof that God saves and has a plan to fulfill everything said about Jesus in scripture.
Sword of the Spirit
and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Swords are offensive weapons. The word of God pierces through the ambiguities and gray areas of our lives. As well as the seemingly impossible world of the Middle East. The best weapon that we have is what Scripture teaches us about God’s plan for Israel and his people the Jews. Knowing what God teaches about his people through his word shows us the role he has meant for us to play.
The same is true in our lives. God’s word teaches us how to think, how to respond and what to do when faced with every manner of difficulty. This is a time more than ever to do the work to apply God’s word to your own life.
Pray in the Spirit
*18 *Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. *19 *And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike.
Prayer works. It always has and always will. God wants us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. The Gospel of Jesus is for everyone including Jews and the rest of us. Pray that the Holy Spirit would work in the midst of the chaos our world is experiencing. Pray for unity in Israel. Pray for God’s protection of civilians against all terrorist entities. Pray for all decision makers to have wisdom to discern the times and act accordingly. Pray that the Gospel would reach Jews and Palestinians alike. Pray that God would defend innocent people in the midst of a war unfolding in heavily populated areas. Pray for Israel to have supernatural favor on the world’s stage. And pray for peace.
“It is better to do something than to do nothing while waiting to do everything.”
– Winston Churchill
VFR vs. IFR
Real human war is costly on all fronts. There is a such thing as a just war, but innocent lives can, and will be lost. We must ultimately trust God for justice. We cannot afford to be pacifists because of perceived ethical dilemmas. We must act, and act in accordance with what Scripture teaches.
We must also know that our actions will have both intended, and unintended consequences. But we must do something.
There is no perfect solution for Israel. There is barely an ideal solution. But that cannot stop Israel from acting.
In our own lives, this is often true. This is why understanding what God says in his word. Our lives often feel cloudy with the fog of war.
In aviation, there are two ways to fly a plane. IFR and VFR. IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) is a set of regulations and procedures for flying aircraft by relying solely on the aircraft's instruments. VFR (Visual Flight Rules), on the other hand, allows pilots to operate an aircraft in weather conditions clear enough to see where the aircraft is going.
Most people, just like amateur pilots, live their life according to VFR. They solely rely on what they can see—senses, emotions, or reasoning. This approach might work when conditions are clear; however, it's not reliable in "poor visibility" situations like moral dilemmas or emotional challenges. If you rely on VFR in a storm, you can find yourself in what’s called a “death spiral.” A "death spiral" in aviation occurs when a pilot becomes disoriented and mistakenly believes they are flying level while they are actually in a descending spin. Trusting their senses instead of their instruments, the situation worsens until they fatally crash. You can believe you are doing the right thing because you feel good, or it makes you happy, but ignore the warning signs in your life, because you can’t see through the storm. Your feelings aren’t facts. Not about Israel, not about Palestine, not about your own life. You can’t afford to be an amateur pilot in life just flying based on what you see and how you feel.
When a pilot flys with IFR, they don’t trust what they can see, they trust their instruments. They may feel like they are flying too low, or too high, or the are headed in the wrong direction, but the instruments don’t lie. Just as a pilot trusts instruments for navigation regardless of external conditions, living by the principles of God’s word provides a constant, unchanging guide. You rely on a higher authority for direction, especially when the "visibility" in life is poor due to trials or uncertainty. If you don’t know what to do, go to God’s word. If you don’t have the answer yet, keep looking at God’s word. Eventually, your instruments will take you in the right direction.
All of us, like pilots, fly with both. IFR is for complex or challenging conditions that require a reliable framework (Scripture), and VFR for clear-cut situations where personal judgment and perception alone suffice. The key is knowing when to apply each in your life for effective navigation. And in situations like this, you need to learn to fly with both.
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