Phil Johnson, Ph.D.
April 21, 2016
On Monday of this week, a bomb exploded on a bus in Jerusalem wounding 20 and killing the perpetrator, a 19-year old Palestinian man from the Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem. Hamas has claimed responsibility. This, in addition to the increased number of stabbings in Jerusalem this year do not bring either side closer to the negotiation table.
New violence provokes Israeli police raids into east Jerusalem neighborhoods, raids produce arrests of potential Palestinian terrorists, arrests incite riots and riots bring Israeli counter-response (always deemed to be “heavy-handed” by international rights groups and the media). And the cycle continues.
Also on Monday, I finished a leadership conference in Jerusalem that dealt with digging in to the perspectives on all sides of this ongoing issue – with the purpose of understanding the importance of humanity as well as the need all people have for reasonable security. Throughout the conference we talked to Zionists, religious Jews, investigative reporters, Muslims Palestinians and Christian Palestinians. In all the years I have spent visiting and conducting conferences in Israel and the West Bank, not much has really changed. The attitudes and spikes in violence remain the same. The rhetoric is the same. The media is the same. The uninformed reactions from many people in the world remain the same – well, maybe that aspect as actually increased. One more thing remains true – peace in the Middle East remains illusive.
Israel builds settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank and declares the indivisible capital of Israel to be the city of Jerusalem. Most of the world rejects this – many view Israel’s actions as illegal. It would probably be easier – and more honest to view these actions as “unwise,” rather than necessarily illegal. (Unwise if the goal is creating a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.) But as David Phillips points out, it depends on one’s “acceptance of the Palestinian narrative that the West Bank is “Arab” land. Following the defensive war of 1967, something had to be done with the land that Israel gained. And since no one wanted to negotiate a return of these lands for peace, recognition and cooperation, (see the Khartoum Conference) – Israel built settlements. War is war. And it’s highly unusual that the winner of that war, in this case, Israel, was the only party interested in making peace and returning the territory it had gained after being attacked, but no one else was interested.
And by the time Israel’s itchy neighbors tried war again in 1973, it was obvious that the Jewish State wasn’t going to be driven into the sea – the Arab enemies of Israel even needed the Soviets to get involved to prevent a military debacle, as Israel closed in on Cairo and Damascus. But this time, the Arabs were more interested in negotiating for peace – and the recognition of Israel – thus the Sinai was returned and Egypt made peace with Israel – maybe only in the contractual sense, but it has held for some 30 years.
On the Palestinian side – official recognition of Israel with Jerusalem as its undivided capital is a bitter pill to swallow. Palestinians, having rejected the UN partition plan of 1947, have suffered as a result of that decision. Combined with the loss of several defensive wars started by neighboring Arab states, many Palestinians have been driven out of their homes and away from their land. The instability, poverty and lack of economic options are squarely placed at the feet of Israel – viewed as a racist, apartheid nation that builds walls, oppresses people, and bulldozes houses.
Viewing themselves as freedom-fighters, Palestinians fight against Israel with the goal of getting back what they believe was stolen from them. Hatred of Israel is taught in schools and the cycle of hatred and violence continue. (Check out these videos from David Bedein’s Israel: Behind the News)
Interestingly, it’s not difficult to find Palestinians who will express their admiration of Israel – along with their desire to be part of Israel rather than a future Palestinian state. That’s not hard to understand – in spite of the many UN resolutions against it – Israel’s record on human rights (specifically women’s rights), Arab representation in its government and freedom of speech are in shocking contrast to the nations that surround it. Perhaps instead of hating Israel so much, Israel’s neighbors should take an internal look into their own records of freedom and human rights.
In the end, the fact that Israel exists to this day is a miracle. Actually, a miracle that the Bible foretold stating that in the last days, Israel would again become a nation and that Jews from all over the world would return and make the desert bloom. Which is exactly what has happened. (Ezekiel 20:34, Isaiah 11:11-12, Isaiah 66:8, Psalm 107:2-3) The Bible also warned that those who bless Israel would be blessed and those who cursed Israel would be cursed. (Genesis 12:3)
Prophetic fulfillment or not, Israel, as a government is not perfect. And the problems between Israelis and Palestinians is complex. It’s not likely that suddenly everyone will agree with Israel’s historical and legal right to exist – or its response to its security issues. And given the events of this week – and the increase of violence in the last months, it’s even less likely that a peace consensus is anywhere in the near future. But it is time to start finding ways to help people deal with the safety of others, the respect of others and the rights of all people to live in peace and to pursue their God-given rights of freedom and the right to love and protect their children. No matter who they are or where they live.