Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Why Israel Keeps Having Trouble 

So many thoughts. So many feelings. So many ideas. So many conflicts. How can we make sense of it all?

If I were an Arab leader, I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal; we have taken their country. It is true God promised it to us, but how could that interest them? Our God is not theirs. There has been Anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They see but one thing: we have come and we have stolen their country. Why would they accept that?David Ben-Gurion
From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free! Do people really know what they’re saying when they utter that phrase? One wonders.

Is this proclamation a call for genocide? No. It could be, of course—surely there are those who would be willing to see all Jews exterminated. But you don’t have to exterminate Jews to remove them from power. So is it then a call for ethnic cleansing? Maybe. Generally, yes, people who scream this mantra want the Jews to go somewhere else. But the main thing is that they want the Jews removed from power. It’s much more an issue of control than an issue of presence. Now, I don’t want to get sidetracked by the issue of genocide—Perhaps I will address this in a separate podcast episode later. But while I do not believe that this protest slogan is necessarily a call for genocide, or even ethnic cleansing, you can’t say that it doesn’t mean anything, or that it means whatever you want it to. Clearly it at least means, as I have said, that Israel as a Jewish state should be wiped out. I do not agree with this slogan. I think it is unhistorical and largely emotional, but I also don’t waste a minute of time worrying that it might happen. My main point is that it is not effective to complain about the way Israel behaves (especially toward Palestinians) if you don’t even allow Israel to exist as a country. So it seems that the first thing to do is to declare our support for Israel’s right to exist as a country, and then we can move on to constructive criticism of Israel’s approach to minority people living within her borders. Give the podcast a listen, and then consider the points I have made that follow. I welcome your thoughts on this very troubling issue.

First of all, I made a mistake when I referred to the Palestinian American journalist as Helen Douglas. And she wasn’t Palestinian. Her parents were from Tripoli, but she was born in the United States. Her name was not Helen Douglas, it was Helen Thomas. I think I probably got her mixed up with Helen Gahagan Douglas, the woman who lost to Richard Nixon in the 1950 California US Senate race. By the way Nixon said that during that campaign, JFK came to him with an envelope:

My father wanted you to have this.
It was a one thousand dollar contribution to his campaign. It was a very sensitive time in America, and politicians who were seen as socialist or sympathetic to communism were viewed with suspicion. More about that some other time. Anyway, back to my story. Helen Thomas was asked about the conflict in the Middle East, and particularly about Israel. In an unguarded moment, she let loose with her real feelings on the issue:

She was fired immediately. Oh, well. She was already 90 years old at the time, but it was a foolish thing to do. Nevertheless, it revealed the strong feeling about this issue that existed then and still exists now: Do the Jews belong in Palestine?

Special guest Donald Grey Barnhouse in his remarks mentioned Jezreel, Loruhamah, Loammi. This is a reference to the Book of Hosea. The way Hosea works is that the prophecy is given in the first chapter, and then the book goes on to tell the story. But the important verse to pay attention to is Hosea 1:11.

And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.
To appreciate the significance of this verse, it is important to understand some very critical events in the history of Israel. The key word is “Diaspora.” When I am talking about this in my Bible studies, I tell people that there were three of them. The first was the capture of the northern kingdom in 722 BC. The second was the Babylonian captivity, which only involved the southern kingdom, since the northern kingdom had already disappeared, and the third began with the destruction of the second temple in 70 AD. But since the last stand at Masada was not taken until three years later, if you want to say that the third diaspora began in 73 AD, I won’t argue.

Anyway, Israel was divided under Rehoboam, the son of Solomon. He had asked for advice from the old men, and they advised kindness. He then asked advice from his buddies, the young guys. They advised toughness. He ignored the wisdom of the old men and followed the brash stupidity of the young men, and the northern kingdom rebelled. The nation was never united after that.

Then the northern kingdom was taken away by Sennacherib and never heard from again. This was the first Diaspora. Who knows where the ten tribes are? The Mormons believe that the American Indians are the ten lost tribes. Many believe that the Pashtun people of Afghanistan are the 10 lost tribes. Nobody knows. The Assyrians also threatened the southern kingdom (Judah), but Hezekiah’s prayer saved the nation.

But later, the southern kindom (which was the only kingdom now) was taken away in the Babylonian captivity, and the first temple was destroyed. But they didn’t disappear. They came back after 70 years. The temple was rebuilt and eventually added to by Herod.

List of Israel's wars with her neighbors (from Wikipedia):
Conflict Combatant 1 Combatant 2 Results Israeli commanders Israeli losses
Israeli Prime Minister Defense Minister of Israel Chief of Staff of the IDF IDF
War of Independence
 Israel Egypt Egypt
Jordan Transjordan
Syria Syria
Saudi Arabia
All-Palestine Protectorate Holy War Army
Arab League ALA
Victory David Ben-Gurion Yaakov Dori 4,074[4] ~2,000[4]
Sinai War
United Kingdom United Kingdom
France France
Egypt Egypt Victory
  • Sinai demilitarized, UNEF deployed.
Moshe Dayan 231 None
Six-Day War
 Israel  Egypt
Iraq Iraq
Victory Levi Eshkol Moshe Dayan Yitzhak Rabin 776 20
War of Attrition
 Israel  Egypt
Soviet UnionSoviet Union
Both sides claimed victory Golda Meir Haim Bar-Lev 1,424[5] 227[6]
Yom Kippur War
 Israel  Egypt
Iraq Iraq
Morocco Morocco
 Saudi Arabia
Victory[7] David Elazar 2,688 None[9]
Operation Litani
Lebanon FLA
PLO Victory
  • PLO retreat from South Lebanon.
Menachem Begin Ezer Weizman Mordechai Gur 18 None
First Lebanon War
Lebanon SLA
Lebanon Lebanese Front
Syria Syria
Lebanon Jammoul
"Tactical victories, strategic failure"[10]
  • PLO expulsion from Lebanon.[11]
Ariel Sharon Rafael Eitan 657 2–3
Security Zone Campaign
Lebanon SLA
  • Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon.[13]
Shimon Peres Yitzhak Rabin Moshe Levi 559 7
First Intifada
 Israel UNLU
Oslo I Accord Yitzhak Shamir Dan Shomron 60 100
Second Intifada
 Israel PA
  • Palestinian uprising suppressed.[14]
Ariel Sharon Shaul Mofaz Moshe Ya'alon 301 773
Second Lebanon War
 Israel Hezbollah Stalemate Ehud Olmert Amir Peretz Dan Halutz 121 44
Operation Cast Lead
 Israel Hamas Victory Ehud Barak Gabi Ashkenazi 10 3
Operation Pillar of Defense
 Israel Hamas Victory
  • Cessation of rocket fire into Israel.
Benjamin Netanyahu Benny Gantz 2 4
Operation Protective Edge
 Israel Hamas Both sides claim victory Moshe Ya'alon 67 6
Israel–Palestine crisis


 Israel Hamas Both sides claim victory
  • Truce declared
Benny Gantz Aviv Kochavi 1 14
Operation Iron Swords (2023) Israel Israel Hamas Hamas Ongoing Yoav Gallant Herzi Halevi 464+ 859+

So after the second diaspora (Babylonian captivity) was ended when Cyrus of Persia declared that the Jews would be allowed to return, they existed as a people in their homeland (except for the 10 northern tribes) until the time of Christ, when they were basically a colony of the Roman empire, as depicted in the gospels.

Now to the third diaspora. When did it begin? Some time ago, John posted a video of Netanyahu addressing this issue. It is interesting, and worth listening to, but I totally disagree with his discussion of how it started. He says it began in the seventh century. He does not mention Islam, but we all know what the seventh century means.

He’s dead wrong. Jesus of Nazareth, in three of the four gospels, predicted the destruction of the second temple, which took place under Titus in 70 AD:

Matthew 24:2 But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

Mark 13:2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

Luke 21:6 “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

Jesus goes on to predict the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, but especially that Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the gentiles. Read this. It’s important:
Luke 21:20 "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.
Luke 21:21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it,
Luke 21:22 for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written.
Luke 21:23 Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people.
Luke 21:24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
The destruction of Jerusalem was devastating for the Jews. Christians were largely unaffected, because they had read this before it happened, so when they saw the Roman armies surrounding Jerusalem, they took the warning of Jesus seriously, and fled.

But the main point is the statement Jesus of Nazareth makes at the end of this prophecy, which is that “Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” Clearly Jerusalem being “trampled underfoot by the Gentiles” began after the destruction of the second temple, not in the seventh century. So that’s 70 AD, not six or seven hundred AD. Read Josephus if you want the details.

So when will Jerusalem being “trampled underfoot” be over? I think you could say that this process began in 1948, but clearly Jerusalem is not yet free of Gentile control of Israel.

So when will that happen? Or should it happen? People tend to think that Christians and Jews believe that the land belongs to Israel, while the Muslims believe it does not. But both the Bible and the Quran state very clearly that the land was given to Israel by God. Genesis 15 gives the Biblical account of the Abrahamic covenant. And here is the Quran:

O my people! Enter the Holy Land which Allah has destined for you ˹to enter˺. And do not turn back or else you will become losers.
The statements in the Old Testament (which Jews call the “Tenach”) and in the Quran are not vague, interpretive statements. Both the Bible and the Quran state very specifically in clear, unambiguous language that the land was given to the Jews by God.

Interactivce map showing actual control of various areas in the West Bank and Gaza (from The Conversation).

So this is not really a matter of religion. In the most practical sense, it is a matter of the fact that two different peoples have an inherent right to occupy the same piece of real estate. The Jews have a right to be there. But the Palestinians do too. How could they not have a right to be there?

If you got on a sleeper train and discovered that some crook had sold your ticket twice, and there was little old lady already occupying your berth, what would you do? What gives you the right to muscle her out of there just because you also have a ticket for that berth. After all,she has just as much right to occupy that space as you do, and she was there first.

So what to do? In the podcast, I share my belief that Israel needs to occupy the Gaza strip and lead the people.

“But if we do that, people will call us occupiers.”

They already do. Haven’t you heard? So you might as well actually do what they are accusing you of.

You see this is the root of my bitterness. I have a hard time forgiving Israel for leaving Hamas in power all these years. There is just no excuse for allowing those monsters to hold the people of Gaza captive for so long. The leaders of Hamas are corrupt. They don’t even live in Gaza. They live in abject wealth in Doha. How obvious does it have to be? Now, some in Israel say that the common people of Gaza are to blame, because they support what Hamas is doing. Nobody really knows the answer to that question. I suppose we can imagine it would be true to a certain extent. As I said previously, when I talk to people from the Middle East, they often express their opposition to the existence of Israel as a country. But that is largely because they have never seen anything about the way Israel leads that actually benefits them. I am strongly convinced that the thinking of the people would be radically altered if they were allowed to benefit from compassionate leadership.

After the Japanese surrendered to the Americans, there were signs all over Japan urging women ot volunteer themselves as comfort women for the benefit of the country. You see, they were convinced that the American soldiers were going to come in and rape their women. But when that didn’t happen, their thinking began to change. Japan became a strong ally of the Americans.

What about a two-state solution? Well, I have never believed that this woud be a long term solution, but I was open to it as a “for the time being” approach. But it will never happen. This is the plight of the Palestinians. The Israelis don't care about them (as long as they stay in their rabbit cage), and their own leaders are corrupt. I heard the leadership in Gaza say that the people of Gaza are refugees, so it is the United Nations’ responsibility to take care of them. I felt like saying, “Really? Then what, pray tell, is your responsibility?”

We all know the answer: build tunnels and fire rockets at Israel. And it’s not any better in the West Bank. Mahmoud Abbas has been in power basically since the death of Arafat and remains in power by refusing to hold elections. He is also reported to be worth $100 million. Elliot Abrams has revealed what Arab leaders told him personally when he urged them to help Palestine: “Why should we give them money when they just steal it?” And Abbas himself has admitted that he turned down an offer from Israel to form a Palestinian state on 95% of the West Bank. He is a far cry from the kind of benevolent leader the Palestinians need. You see, nobody really cares about them.

But what about the many demonstrations in support of Palestine? They don’t impress me. I don’t see genuine love for the Palestinian people. I just see hatred for Israel. The proof of this is that, as I mentioned in the podcast, when these demonstrators are asked specific questions about the issue, they are completely clueless. They know nothing about the situation. They just know that they hate Israel.

And Evangelical Christians are no better. Several times on the 700 Club they have shown some of the families in Israel that they have helped. That’s good, of course, but Israel is a developed country that has the wherewithal to help her own people. How many times have you turned on the 700 Club and seen them helping a Palestinian family? Don’t expect it any time soon. Nobody cares about them. I know, I know. It’s on Hamas.

I have to say this one more time: Nothing excuses what those Hamas “freedom fighters” did on October 7th. If you cannot bring yourself to condemn that, you are sick. But that does not mean that we should not be cognizant of the factors that have encouraged deep resentment toward Israel on the part of the common people of Palestine.

Let us not ignore the truth among ourselves … politically we are the aggressors and they defend themselves… The country is theirs, because they inhabit it, whereas we want to come here and settle down, and in their view we want to take away from them their country. … Behind the terrorism [by the Arabs] is a movement, which though primitive is not devoid of idealism and self sacrifice.David Ben-Gurion
I want you to watch the video below. This is an evangelical Christian pastor who happens to be ethnic Palestinian. Hear him out. He absolutely does not believe that the Ashkenazim are actually Jews. Most evangelicals are completely unaware how widespread this belief is. The cynical side of me tends to think that the reason people who oppose Israel convince themselves that the Ashkenazi Jews are not actually Jews, is because then they can call for them to go back to Germany and Poland without being considered anti-Semitic. But try to keep your cynicism at bay and listen to what this guy has to say. After all, we don’t have Abraham’s DNA. So it’s hard to prove either way.

Anyway, you’re probably not going to agree with everything he says, but he is a decent man, and he deserves to be heard. As you listen, try to think how you would respond to him. You can disagree, but if you disagree, do so as a brother, and do so with objective reference to information, either historical or Biblical.

If we support the right of the Jews to be a people, and to have their land as a people and as a country, we must also support the right of the Palestians to be a people and to have their land as a people and as a country.

"But it's the same land!"

I know. I know. That's the problem. What's your solution?

Book Review : A Concise History of the Middle East
Very fortuitous that I wrote this book review back in March, because this current blog post would have had to be a lot longer if I did not have this book review to refer to. The book is also good. But at least read the review, because it address exactly the issues we have all been talking about since October 7th.

Jewish vs. Non-Jewish Population of Palestine
This is for those who say that the Jews have "always had a presence" in Palestine. In fact, Jewish population in Palestine was miniscule until the end of the 19th century.

Who are the Ashkenazi Jews?
Most Americans have no idea how widely believed is the idea that the Ashkenazis are not really Jewish. The reason I am skeptical of this is because the numbers seem unlikely. You don’t hear that much about people converting to Judaism. Once in awhile, when someone marries a Jew or something, but not that often. In contrast, American Evangelicals hold large crusades where they fill huge stadiums with thousands of people and you can see hundreds of people streaming forward to become Christians. So they’re asking me to believe that at some point in the past, Jews had huge crusades to convert mass numbers of Europeans to Judaism and these became the Ashkenazi Jews? Just doesn’t seem likely. Now some say that the Ashkenazi Jews actually start from a very small population. Call me cynical, but I tend to think such conclusions are motivated by the desire to discount the Ashkenazim as Jews. One can easily believe that there was a significant European admixture, as Wikipedia says, but the idea that there is no genetic connection whatsoever between modern Ashkenazi Jews and ancient Israelites seems a bit far fetched.

But fact that I do not subscribe to this idea does not mean that I am not interested in the subject, or that I am not willing to hear arguments on either side. This should be a matter of keen interest to everyone, because if the Ashkenazi Jews are not really Jews, but interlopers from Europe who have no business being in Palestine, there is no Israel.

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