Whose Jerusalem ?

Whose Jerusalem ?

Whose Land ?

Whose Land:
Can Christians be Neutral or Non-Aligned?

by Dr. Ulla Jarvilehto, Christian Zionism and Its Biblical Basis, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem

The question of to whom the little land of Israel should belong seems to be a matter of constant discussion around the world. Has the Jewish nation the right to possess the area? Should Israel withdraw to the 1967 boundaries, including Jerusalem? Should the whole area or part of it become a Palestinian Arab state? What should the status of Jerusalem be? These questions are put on agendas over and over again and debated in various international congresses at governmental or parliamentary level. Many resolutions have been made. These are usually not based upon facts, or upon what is ethically right or wrong, but instead upon rivalry between political blocks, upon world trade influenced by oil and petro-dollars, and upon anti-Semitic ideologies which have a more or less consciously religious nature, even in those societies where the religion is atheism.

Consequently the world news media has too often been filled with one-sided and distorted information. Repeated slogans about the rights of the Palestinian people have been absorbed, little by little, as truth by people who do not know enough about the real situation, about history or ethnology, or about the total picture of the Middle-East refugee problem. This has also been confusing to many Christians who do not know what to think or what kind of stand to take.

When we, as Christians, test our attitudes, we have first of all to remember that the only true basis upon which we can build is the Word of God. It stands firm, as human ideologies rise and fall. It will last even when heaven and earth pass away. Therefore, we have to study what the Bible says about the question: "Whose promised land?" and weight the value of all opinions offered to us by human authorities, according to their conformity with the everlasting Word of God. We do not have to bend over backwards trying to interpret the Bible or to allegorize its message; the Bible speaks to us plainly.

In Genesis 12:7 God says to the patriarch Abraham: "To your descendants I will give this land". In Genesis 13:15 the Lord adds to the promise the term "forever". In Genesis 15:18 God declares the borders of the promised area. In Genesis 21:12 God defines the promise concerning the descendants of Abraham by saying: "through Isaac shall your descendants be named". Ishmael, the other son of Abraham also gets promises, but the possession of that specific land and the historic task to transmit blessing to all nations of the earth, are confirmed by God to Isaac in Genesis 26 and to Jacob in Genesis 28.

Numerous prophetic Scriptures tell us also about the dispersion of the Jewish nation amongst other nations and about the desolation of the land during the dispersion. Further, the Scriptures tell us about the regathering of Israel back to her own land, which God will fulfill for His own name's sake. The prophet Amos declares in 9:15 that the regathering of Israel will be permanent: "I will plant them upon their land, and they shall never again be plucked up out of the land which I have given them, says the Lord your God".

Thus, the return from Babylon 500 years B.C. was not the final fulfillment of the prophecies, as some writers maintain. The prophet Zechariah declares that God will regather Israel to the centre of Jerusalem and not only to the western part of a divided Jerusalem, "Thus says the Lord of hosts: Behold, I will save my people from the east country and from the west country and I will bring them to dwell in the midst of Jerusalem" (Zechariah 8:7-8).

Psalm 122:3 states that Jerusalem is one and undivided: "Jerusalem is built as a city which is bound firmly together". Isaiah two and Micah four prophesy that Jerusalem will be the messianic centre from which the blessings of the Word of the Lord and world peace will proceed to the ends of the earth.

The prophet Isaiah describes the person of the Messiah as the son of a virgin, who will be called Emmanuel: God with us; as a suffering servant of the Lord who bore our sins and sicknesses and as a son who has been given to us, upon whose shoulders will be the government and whose name will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

The prophet Isaiah tells further that He will bring together Israel and the Gentile believers. In Isaiah 49:6 he says, "it is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel, I will give you as a light for the nations that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth". His Person unites, gathers, creates new attitudes, love and peace, and that is a wonderful future promise for our world filled with hatred, and misunderstandings.

The Bible that Jesus read was the Old Testament.

Let us take one more interesting prophecy linked with the present Middle-East discussion. The prophet Joel declares the reasons for the coming judgment of nations. One of the reasons is the partition of the promised land, "I will enter into judgment with them... because they have divided up my land" (Joel 3:2).

Some writers maintain that Jesus did not say anything about the future of Israel, so Christians do not have to care about her, nor about the Old Testament prophecies. That is not true. Jesus speaks many times about the future of Israel. He uses the Old Testament symbol of Israel when He speaks about the fig-tree which puts forth its leaves as a sign of coming summer. In His prophetic speech, Luke 21:24, Jesus says about Israel: "They will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led captive among other nations, and Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled".

When speaking about the coming sufferings of Jerusalem Jesus wept, because He loved His own people. But He also spoke about the regathering of Israel to Jerusalem, and confirmed the Old Testament prophecies concerning Israel, by saying in Matthew 5:18, "Till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a jot will pass from the law until all is accomplished", and in John 10:35 "Scripture cannot be broken". The Scriptures, the Bible that Jesus read, was the Old Testament. He did not give His followers permission to be ignorant or indifferent about the Scriptures given by God to the Old Testament prophets.

One of the confusing slogans originating from PLO circles and also spread amongst western Christians is the thesis: "We are not anti-Semitic but anti-Zionist". Let us study this thesis in the light of the Bible. The prophet Jeremiah declares the Word of God, Jeremiah 31:10, "Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare in the coastlands afar off, say, He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him, as a shepherd keeps his flock".

Today's Anti-Semites.

The message which God told the prophet to declare to all nations is that the regathering of Israel is the purpose and achievement of God. The Zionistic movement is just His instrument, when acting according to His plans. An anti-Zionist who opposes the return and presence of the nation of Israel in the Middle-East, does not oppose only the Zionist movement, but also the impelling power of the return of Israel: the Almighty God Himself. As Christians we should be able to anticipate which side will destroy itself in the confrontation.

In addition to this, a close examination of the slogan "not anti-Semites but anti-Zionists" which has been offered as a model of attitude to Christians, shows that it is a hypocritical lie. The final aim of anti-Semitism is always the same: to destroy the Jewish people, whereas its strategies vary according to the situation. Anti-Semitism concentrates the heaviest attacks on the site where the heart of the Jewish nation beats strongest. While the anti-Semites in the 1930's and 1940's tried to eliminate the Jewish people from Europe, the anti-Semites of today try to destroy them in the centre of their present existence, that means to eliminate the Jewish state in the Middle-East. Anti-Zionism is nothing else but the same old and abhorrent anti-Semitism simply covered with a modern cloak, which the current situation requires.

If we examine the roots of the "not anti-Semites but anti-Zionist" slogan, we notice that it originates from the same sources which have painted to the world a picture of a so-called secular, democratic Palestinian state on the site of Israel, and maintained that some Jewish people could

live there in peace with Arabs, as Arabs and Jews have lived in peace in the Middle-East for centuries. If we look at the facts behind this picture we see that amongst the Arab regimes surrounding Israel there is not a single democracy - Israel is the only one in the Middle-East.

We see further that the Jewish minorities living under the Arab rule have repeatedly been oppressed and persecuted on a religious and racial basis by the ruling Arab majority. So much for democracy and peace. The attempt to separate anti-Zionism from anti-Semitism and sell it as a more acceptable attitude to the world shows, in the light of facts, its total dishonesty and falsehood. Let us not be deceived by that trick.

We have stated that according to the Bible the Promised Land belongs to Israel, and the Jewish nation returns home in conformity with the biblical prophecies.

Starting from 600 A.D.?

Is this biblical right of Israel to possess the Promised Land in contradiction with historical rights? No, it is not. The Jewish nation dwelt in their land for centuries before the Arabs occupied the region. The neo-anti-Semitic propaganda literature starts historical studies from 600 AD, intentionally ignoring the fact that the land had, much earlier, an important history. The Jewish people had a flourishing, independent state, whereas during the dispersion of the Jewish people the land was uncared for, sparsely inhabited and in places deserted.

It was taken over by various occupying forces, one after another: Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders, Arabs, Mamelukes, Turks and British. But never was there an independent Palestinian state, whereas the Jewish state is an ancient, historical fact. Jerusalem has never been an Arab capital, but it has been - as it is now - the capital of Israel since 1000 B.C. The Jewish culture was born in Israel and it gave unique gifts to the whole world. No Arab culture, specific only to Palestine, has ever existed. The Arabs living in that area have always considered themselves to be part of the greater Arab people. All the cultural and spiritual treasures that the Promised Land has given to the world have been of Jewish origin.

They are one people.

Is the biblical right of Israel to possess her land in contradiction with moral right? No, it is not. Let us have a short survey of the facts.

Those who say that the Palestinian Arabs are a people without a land and blame Israel for that, should remember that one specific Palestinian Arab state was established in 1922, when the land originally promised to Israel by the Balfour Declaration was partitioned for the first time. 22% of the land was left for Israel, 77% was broken off to be a Palestinian Arab state the name of which today is Jordan. Official Jordanian statements to the effect that Jordanians and Palestinians are one and the same people are numerous. For instance King Hussein said on Egyptian TV 10.10.1977: "The two peoples are actually one. These are established facts". Even some PLO leaders have openly admitted this fact.

People should also remember that promises made to the Israelis have been broken twice. The first time was the partition of 1922. The second time was the UN partition plan of 1947, which the Israelis accepted, whereas the Arabs rejected the partition plan and declared war against Israel, because they wanted to take the whole area.

Thus the slogan about the crucial meaning of establishing a Palestinian state on the so-called West Bank, Judea and Samaria, so as to get peace in the Middle-East, is not true. Look at the map and count all the on-going wars and conflicts between different Arab states and ask what kind of peace solution for the Middle-East one more Palestinian Arab state could offer. Another Palestinian Arab state would mean establishing a nonviable mini-state, a bridge-head for attacks in the very heart of Israel, a provisional aim in taking over the whole land, as many PLO speakers have expressed openly. Israel would lack natural borders, and at the narrowest part of the land would be only 13 kilometers from one border to the other.

We cannot speak about a specific Palestinian nationality.

Those who speak about the Palestinian people without a land, should also be informed about the unique definition given by the United Nations Relief Work Agency to the Palestinian Arab refugees. Usually the term refugee means that a person who was born or at least has been living for a long time in a specific country has to leave it. The UNRWA altered this definition in the 1950's as regards the Palestinian Arab refugees, by including those people who had lived in Palestine only two years before 1948.

On the other hand, we know from many sources e.g. Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, about a massive Arab immigration to Palestine from the surrounding countries in the 1940's. In these circumstances we cannot speak about a specific Palestinian nationality, people differing from Arab people in the surrounding countries.

Those who speak for the right of repatriation of the Palestinian Arab refugees to Israel, should remember first that this refugee problem was a consequence of the declaration of war by Arab countries against Israel. Then they should remember that these refugees were shut inside their refugee camps and used by their own Arab brothers as a political weapon against Israel instead of being integrated amongst the populations of various Arab countries.

In 1948 there were 856,000 Jewish people in the Arab countries, in 1982 only 35,000. Thus we see that in the Middle-East there has happened an exchange of populations between Israel and Arab countries, and in addition, a transfer of property from Jews to Arabs. In most cases the property of the Jewish refugees was confiscated and left in the Arab countries. World history knows other exchanges of populations, too, e.g. Greece-Turkey, Turkey-Bulgaria, India-Pakistan. In no other case has one-sided repatriation been claimed.

Those who say that only the Jewish people have got a land but the Arabs have been left without a share, should remember that there are more than twenty Arab states and only one Jewish state in the Middle-East.

The Arabs have 13 million square kilometers of land, they have no over-population problems, they have oil-riches, they have a common culture and common language throughout the vast Arab areas of Northern Africa and Asia. The land of Israel is no more than 1% of the Arab areas. It cannot be partitioned any more, neither in the West Bank nor in Golan, without endangering the security of Israel. The Arabs do not have any moral, historical, juridical or political rights to claim the whole Middle-East for themselves.

So we see that the biblical right of Israel to possess her land is in conformity with historical and moral rights. As usual, the Word of God and facts fit together.

Studying the facts should convince us that the existence of the Israeli state and the right of the Israeli people to return home and live in peace within secure boundaries are worthy of all support. Comparing Israel, the only democracy of the Middle-East, and her mode of action with those of her adversaries should convince the free democracies of the world that their future and prosperity of Israel. When making a choice between Israel and her antagonists, the world is making a choice between democracy and dictatorship, between a developed judicial system and terrorism, between human rights and arbitrary violence.

There is no neutral opinion.

Choosing Israel and standing by her does not mean hating Arabs. If the Arab neighbours of Israel withdrew their war declaration against Israel, recognized her and started the mutual peace negotiations that Israel has several times offered to them, this would be a blessing for the Arabs, too. All parties would flourish instead of the present bloodshed and suffering.

Some Christians try to solve the conflict between public opinion and Bible-based attitudes by saying that they are neutral and non-aligned. Some may say: "I am a friend of Israel on a spiritual level but I do not want to take any stand on a political level", or "I pray for and bless all parties in the Middle-East, but I do not want to take any stand". These people ought to see that when God says in the Bible that He will regather the Jewish people to their own land, He is not going to do it on a spiritual level or outside reality. The regathering happens in our world, and this makes it inevitably also a political fact, which causes political reactions, both for and against. There is no neutral option. The Jewish people either returns home or it does not. The Israeli state either exists or it does not. Neutrality in this case means escaping from reality and refusing to take a stand in a process foretold by the Scriptures.

It is not bad to bless all people.

That the Lord wants us to align our attitudes with His plans and not to stay neutral outside, can be seen in His teachings in the Bible on how to pray for Israel. It is not bad to bless all people and to pray for everybody, but the Lord asks us to do more in our prayer life, so as to participate in His plans concerning Israel. The contents of our prayers reflect our innermost attitudes. Therefore we have to study carefully the pattern of prayer for Israel which the Bible gives to us.

I want to draw your attention to Isaiah 62, Jeremiah 31 and Psalm 122, which speak about this matter. Isaiah 62:6-7: "You who put the Lord in remembrance, take no rest, and give Him no rest until He establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth". Jeremiah 31:7: "For thus says the Lord: Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise and say: The Lord has saved His people, the remnant of Israel". Psalm 122:6: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem". This is not neutrality and non-alignment. It is commitment to the establishing of Jerusalem, commitment to her peace, commitment to the saving of the remnant of Israel. It is love and rejoicing for Jacob instead of joining in the world-wide aggression or indifference.

When we learn to pray according to biblical lines, we also act according to these lines. Our words and deeds should indicate the same commitment as our prayer life. Isaiah 62:1 expresses this attitude: "For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her vindication goes forth as brightness and her salvation as a burning torch". Not only those Christians who are in significant positions in political, commercial or church life can say or do something for Zion's sake.

Every Christian can influence his or her own neighbourhood, rectify distorted information and unjust accusations against Israel, and tell facts about Israel instead. Everybody can contact national leaders and exhort them to stand for the truth instead of short-sighted political interests. Everybody can, as a customer, have some influence on trade and economy. In any profession one can develop relations with Israel: in economic, cultural, spiritual, educational and political spheres of life. As the adversaries of Israel did not succeed in selling the world their idea of pushing Israel into the sea, they try to sell the idea of world-wide isolation of Israel. This tendency has to be counteracted by many-sided contacts with Israel. Every Christian can participate.

Some Christians may try to divide their opinions into a private and a public sector and think that on an average they are neutral. A business-man may say: "Privately I am a friend of Israel, but my party, my group, my government, my block has taken another stand, and I cannot be singled out to be counted with Israel, it is impossible". This kind of ambiguity has made many disasters in the world possible. True Bible-believing Christians cannot have ethical double-standards, one for private life and another for public life. Love for the truth and obedience to the Word of God should penetrate all the areas of our life, in principle and in practice. "Let us not love in word and speech but in deed and truth", writes John the Apostle, and this is valid also as regards our love for Israel.

We may sometimes have to stand alone.

To stand up and be counted with Israel is exactly what Christian politicians should do when they see that decisions and resolutions are biased against Israel. Perhaps it is sometimes difficult. Perhaps it will have some unpleasant consequences, but it is not impossible when we trust in God. Obedience to the Word of God must be the highest priority for a Christian politician. All other loyalties come after that.

This means that we may sometimes have to stand alone against the distortions of public opinion or against political group decisions shaped by short-sighted selfish interests. But when someone starts the renewal, there are others who will follow. And just in these situations the Bible-based Christian conviction is for us what it should be: not a superficial cultural varnish, under which we may conform ourselves to the spirit of each time and adopt all its distortions, but the line-maker, the power which corrects distortions and renews life, thinking and behaviour.

So let us not be neutral and non-aligned, indifferent Christians, but let us stand by Israel with prayers, attitudes, words and deeds.

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