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The solution in Palestine is …

Published 10:51am Monday, March 25, 2013

To the “Palestinian-Israeli conflict” I find no simple answer or easy solution. Indeed, I wonder if there will ever be any solution. Even the term Palestinian is a misnomer in current usage. The word refers to those who live in the area once known as Palestine, but both Arabs and Jews have lived there for centuries in numbers that varied over time. Continued use of the term unfairly favors the Palestinian Arabs over the Palestinian Israelis. But for ease of reference here, I’ll tolerate the term.

I cannot judge that Jews having been dispossessed or having fled Europe (however much we empathize with them) entitles them to occupy and dominate the area. From the mid to late 1940s thousands settled on what can only be perceived as “squatters rights.” The Arabs, with citizenship in the Kingdom of Jordan, were there prior the arrival of Jews in great numbers.

But Jordanian citizens already living there does not entitle them to possession of the area, because they became dominant when Muslim Arabs invaded and drove Jewish people out. So, how did the Jews come to be resident prior to the Muslim invasion? The greater number had lived in Persia to where the Babylonians had exiled them when they conquered the area then known as Judea. It was when the Hebrew tribes of Judah, Benjamin and related fragments of the other tribes were living in what by then was Persia they took the name of the lead tribe and became known as Jews (for the most part, two of the twelve tribes that were once the ancient nation of Israel).

A century earlier the Assyrians had defeated the northern kingdom of Israel and then mixed native Hebrews with imported aliens to form the Samaritans. So, by the time of Jesus, the area around Jerusalem was populated by Jewish peoples from exiled Hebrews and north of them were the Samaritans who were part Hebrew and part gentile.

Under tyrannical rule by the Roman Empire, large numbers of Jews were dispersed throughout the empire so that the Jews remaining in Palestine were only a small portion of the Jewish people. Yet, wherever and whenever Jews lived, they considered Palestine (Israel) their rightful and real home. The ancient cry was, “Next year in Jerusalem!” Then the Muslim Arabs invaded and took control.

But backing up still further into ancient history, how did the Hebrews (from whom the Jews came) arrive in Palestine? After having been enslaved in Egypt for centuries, the Hebrew people called Israel marched in under Joshua, drove out most of the Canaanites (but these were not Arabs), subjected those that remained, and set up their kingdom with its capital eventually in Jerusalem.

In the region, but not occupying what was to known as Palestine, were tribes descended from Ishmael and these developed into what came to be known as Arabs. More than interesting and seriously significant is that Ishmael was a son of Isaac and the half-brother of Jacob, whose name became Israel and the national name became Israelites. So, the famous blessings God gave to Abraham (father of Isaac and grandfather of Jacob/Israel) to make of them a great nation and to whom was given the land promised belongs not only to the Israelites but the Ishmaelites (Arabs).

So, who, then, is the rightful people of Palestine? A great number of Christian groups insist it is the Jews because of God’s promise to the Hebrews/Jews through Abraham. I don’t hear much from them about how the Arabs fit into this promise or why they do not. There must be some rights that belong to them based on this biblical document.

More serious, both in intent and current political action, is the conviction of many evangelical Christians (especially those calling themselves dispensationalists) that God once promised to establish his kingdom in Jerusalem and that, eventually, God will accomplish this. The presumption is (and it is a presumption) that this will be based on the contemporary nation of Israel. So, such earnest people consider themselves great friends of the Jews and wish the Palestinian Arabs would get out of the way of the Kingdom of God.

If this is true, it remains that the Bible stipulates this will one day be accomplished by God himself. Nowhere in the Bible are Christians commanded to accomplish this by either medieval crusades or contemporary political or military measures. I find it inconceivable that the present thoroughly secular state of Israel will suddenly become transformed into a theocratic kingdom with the Jews ruling and the Christians subject to them. But, then, God has been known to do what he wants to do even when it is impossible. Like creating the world.

So, what then, is the final solution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? I don’t know, but I’m watching.


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