Affirming Israel's borders: Scripture & history

TEACHING: We would like to present a case for defending Israel against further attacks by her enemies—who vow to destroy her—by affirming her current borders and denying legitimacy to those attacks. We feel this to be in the best interests for Belize, since we need to maintain international respect for our own borders. We cite important moral, biblical, historical and patriotic grounds for this position.

Moral Grounds

Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East except for the fledgling democracy in Iraq, has long been surrounded by hostile nations with vast majorities of Muslims. A central tenet of Islam, often repeated in the Quran, is the destruction of the Jews. This is a cause openly espoused by Hezbollah and Hamas and their parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, which is now becoming dominant in Egypt. In 2005, under pressure from the UN, Israel gave the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians in the hope of making peace with them. Instead of reciprocating with peace, Hamas continued to support suicide bombings in Israel in order to kill the maximum number of Jews. Hamas has continually fired rockets on Israel from the Gaza Strip that Israel gave to them. Fatah, the other major Palestinian political party which is supposed to be in charge of the Palestinian Authority, has failed to restrain Hamas. Hamas’ sister organization Hezbollah has built and armed more than 500 armed bunkers just to the north of Israel, many near Lebanese population centers that they are using as human shields. Both Hamas and Hezbollah now have specially guided rockets capable of hitting targets in central Israel. That means that all of Israel is within range of enemy rockets.

Instead of objecting to this belligerent behavior, the UN plans a vote on a resolution and to grant statehood to the Palestinian Arabs—further legitimizing their campaign to destroy Israel—and to reduce Israel to its pre-1967 borders, which are indefensible against such a campaign. For the sake of peace, democracy, freedom and self-determination, this resolution must not pass.

Self-determination for the Palestinian Arabs is not the issue. They are self-governed in the areas where they live in the West Bank and Gaza. But the Palestinian Authority has held only one election in the West Bank and Gaza with any real opposition party—the 2006 election which was won by Hamas. Since then Palestinians have suffered several changes in government due to the often violent struggle between Hamas and Fatah. And yet the Palestinian Authority has received more than 6 billion dollars in foreign aid since 2001. Here are some details from Wikipedia’s article on “Palestinian Authority”:

“the Palestinian Authority (PA) has received unprecedented financial support from the international community. According to the World Bank, USD 929 million were given by the international community to the PA in 2001, $891 million in 2003 and $1.1 billion in 2005 (representing 53% of the budget in 2005). The main objectives are support to the budget, development aid and public health…” However, “‘The PA’s fiscal situation has become increasingly unsustainable mainly as a result of uncontrolled government consumption, in particular a rapidly increasing public sector wage bill, expanding social transfer schemes and rising net lending,’ said the World Bank report. Government corruption is widely seen as the cause of much of the PA financial difficulties.”

Furthermore, “ The majority of aid to the Palestinian Authority comes from the United States and European Union. According to figures released by the PA, only 22 percent of the $530,000,000 received since the beginning of 2010 came from Arab donors. The remaining came from Western donors and organizations. The total amount of foreign aid received directly by the PA was $1.4 billion in 2009 and $1.8 billion in 2008.”[85]

Why is the Palestinian Authority not using more of this money to improve conditions in the West Bank, and especially in the refugee camps, where there is lack of water, housing, and healthcare? Why are oil-rich Arab nations not contributing more, and allowing more refugees to migrate and become citizens of their countries? The total land mass of Arab nations is 562 times the land mass of tiny Israel. Why take away more land from Israel?

The answer is clear. The issue, again, is not self-determination for the Palestinian Arabs—they already have that, and it is well-financed. The issue is the determination of Palestinian Arab leaders to destroy Israel and the Jewish people—which Hamas, Fatah, and the whole Muslim Brotherhood throughout the world openly advocate. In response, the world should refuse to give the Palestinians statehood until they stop their armed attacks against Israel, recognize Israel, respect her borders, negotiate peace with her, and prove they can keep that peace. Anything less would be grave injustice and serve to rationalize suicide bombings, genocidal campaigns, and border wars throughout the world

Biblical Grounds

In its opening statement, our Constitution affirms “that the Nation of Belize shall be founded upon principles which acknowledge the supremacy of God.” The God of the Bible says of Abraham and his descendants, “I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). If Belize blesses Israel, we will be blessed. If we curse them, we will be cursed. History has borne out this verdict on nations who have opposed the Jewish people.

God gave Abraham and his descendants “all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession” (Gen. 17:8; see Ps. 105:8-11). Canaan was all the land west of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea, later known as Judah and Israel. Jesus and Stephen affirmed that the Promised Land belonged to the Jews even when they were under Roman rule (Acts 1:6-7; 7:5). The failure of the Jewish Bar-Kochba revolt against the Romans in 136 AD sent many Jews into exile. But the Bible always predicted a second regathering of the Jews, just as there was a first regathering after their sixth century BC exile to Babylon. “Then it will happen on that day that the Lord will again recover the second time with His hand the remnant of His people…and will assemble the banished ones of Israel, and will gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth” (Isa. 11:11-12). That second regathering began when Israel gained independence in 1948 after 18 centuries of foreign domination (see Historical Grounds below).

According to many passages in the Bible, Israel also has a crucial role in the last days. After the fullness of the Gentiles have been reached with the gospel, Israel will turn to her God like never before (Rom. 11:25-27). And then judgment will come. “For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat. Then I will enter into judgment with them there on behalf of My people Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; and they have divided up My land” (Joel 3:1-2). It is God’s land and God’s people. Other nations who oppose His chosen people and divide His land do so at their peril.

In the end the peoples of the whole earth will come to Jerusalem for God’s counsel and judgments: “And many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways, and that we may walk in His paths.’ For the law will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples; and they will hammer their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war” (Isa. 2:3-4). The last four clauses of that Scripture are engraved on a wall across the street from the UN headquarters building. The UN would do well to heed those words.

Historical Grounds (principal reference for sources: Wikipedia, except where otherwise noted)

Jewish people have lived in the Promised Land almost continually since they entered under Joshua after gaining freedom from slavery in Egypt more than 3200 years ago. The only exception was the 605-536 BC Babylonian exile (during which remnants remained in Israel in 605-586). The continual occupation of the Promised Land by Jews is thoroughly documented in the book From Time Immemorial by acclaimed journalist Joan Peters. After the failed Bar-Kochba revolt in Jerusalem in AD 136, many of the three million Jewish inhabitants fled to European, Arab and North African lands. But Jewish communities in the Promised Land continued during the Roman Empire and the Byzantine period through the sixth century, when more than forty Jewish communities survived on the coast, in the Negev, in Galilee, in the Jordan Valley, and east of the Jordan. They made their capital at Gaza. They helped the Persians defeat the Byzantine garrison at Jerusalem in AD 614.

Jews were living peacefully with Arabs in Arabia when the self-proclaimed prophet Muhammad began his war campaign with the statement: “Two religions may not dwell together on the Arabian peninsula.” Muhammad drove the Jews out of Medina and slaughtered Jews in many other communities, including the large and thriving Jewish settlement at Khaibar. Jewish refugees fled and returned to the Promised Land, settling in places including the Transjordan and the West Bank, which Arabs now claim as “purely Arab Palestinian areas since time immemorial.” The Muslims conquered the Promised Land in AD 636 but left only enough forces there to collect tribute from the Jews (Peters, pp. 144-149).

In AD 1099 the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem, slaughtering both Jews and Muslims, and ruled parts of Palestine until 1291. “Although the Crusaders had almost ‘wiped out’ the Jewish communities of Jerusalem, Acre, Caesarea and Haifa, some Jews remained, and whole ‘village communities of Galilee survived’” (Peters, p.84, quoting an authority on the Middle East, James Parkes). During the AD 1260-1517 Egyptian Mamluk domination of the Promised Land, 14th century monk Jacques of Verona “noted the long established Jewish community at the foot of Mount Zion, in Jerusalem,” and wrote “The Jews were able to recount the history of these places [in the Holy Land] since this knowledge had been handed down from their forefathers and wise men” (Peters, p.85).

During the AD 1517-1917 Ottoman period, “the Jews in Jerusalem and Gaza maintained ‘cultural and spiritual unity,’” and many Jews were allowed to return to the Holy Land (Peters, p.85, quoting historian Martin Gilbert).  This was in contrast to the treatment of descendants of Jewish refugees in the Muslim-dominated Arab nations. There they suffered many persecutions including mandatory clothing identifying them as hated Jews, segregation into ghettoes, high tribute payments, forced labor, forced conversions, desecration of their synagogues, blood libel charges (accusations of drinking their slain enemies’ blood), and periodic beatings, extortions, rapes, pillages and massacres. In the midst of this suffering in the diaspora, the Jews never lost hope of returning to the Promised Land, often encouraging each other by saying, “Next year in Jerusalem.”

The idea of establishing a Jewish homeland in the Promised Land began to gain momentum in the nineteenth century. Napoleon “launched his campaign to conquer Palestine in 1799 with a pledge to ‘restore the country to the Jews’” (Peters, p.91). While he was unsuccessful, others later advocated this cause including Lord Shaftesbury, Benjamin Disraeli, and novelist George Eliot. Increasing numbers of prominent Jews in both Arab and European nations espoused a return to the Holy Land following the blood libel charges in that provoked widespread massacre and pillage of Jews in Damascus in 1840.

As a result, many Jews began to come home. “Not only were the Sephardic Jews [refugees from Arab nations] ‘numerous’ in the Holy Land, but their language, Hebrew, was popularly used ‘in the ordinary affairs of life’ long before the ‘new Jewish immigration of the early eighteen-eighties’” known as the Zionist movement (Peters, p. 90). They were welcomed by Jews whose ancestors had lived in the Holy Land generation after generation for more than two thousand years. In contrast, the ancestors of most Arabs now in Israel began arriving from other parts of the Ottoman Empire in the late 1800s, finding jobs offered by growing Jewish businesses and developmental activities.

Before the Palestinian Arabs developed a distinct national identity, they mostly identified with their own different migratory tribes, or with whatever foreign power was ruling them at the time. According to the Wikipedia article on the “Palestinian people”: ” The history of a distinct Palestinian national identity is a disputed issue amongst scholars with some arguing that it can be traced as far back as the 1834 Arab revolt in Palestine [against Egyptian forced conscription to fight Ottoman rulers, which lasted three months] while other argue that it didn’t emerge until after the Mandate Palestine period [1917-1948]. According to legal historian Assaf Likhovski, the prevailing view is that Palestinian identity originated in the early decades of the twentieth century.” Most Palestinian Arabs came to the Promised Land from the surrounding Arab lands. As Reuven Doron says in One New Man, “There was never a Palestinian government, language, anthem or any defined national traditions.”

When WWI ended the Ottoman Empire in 1917, the British issued the Balfour Declaration: “His Majesty’s government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” This declaration was approved by the League of Nations.  However, many Muslim Arabs objected to this arrangement, to a large degree due to Muslim intolerance for Jews. Arabs rebelled in 1936-1939, and open war resulted as Arabs and Jews fought for control of Jerusalem.

At the end of WWII, the world was shocked by the revelation that six million Jews were executed in 1939-1945 under Adolph Hitler. Worldwide sentiment grew for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in the Promised Land. In November 1947, the UN voted 33 to 13 to partition the Promised Land west of the Jordan River: one part for Jews, one for Arabs. The Jews proclaimed their part as the independent state of Israel on May 14, 1948 when British forces withdrew. The next day Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt attacked Israel. Though Israel won this struggle for independence, Jordanian soldiers did not return to Jordan but remained in the West Bank with the Palestinian Arab refugees.

These refugees were Arabs who had left the state of Israel during its war for independence, though many Jewish leaders pled with them to stay. They settled in refugee camps set up by Jordanians and the UN. Arab leaders prevented them from migrating to the surrounding Arab nations, saying that Israel was the historic homeland of the Palestinian Arabs, not of the Jews. But the UN defined “Palestinian refugee” as a person who had been in “Palestine” for only two years or more. (“Palestine” was the Roman Empire’s name for the Promised Land).

Since the 1967 Six Days War, those same Arab nations have been preventing Palestinian Arabs from migrating back to Arab lands, preferring to keep them in refugee camps on the West Bank so they can be used in political and military attacks, including suicide bombings, against the Jews in Israel.

In 1967 the PLO used Palestinian Arab refugees to mount a guerilla campaign against Israel from the Jordanian-occupied West Bank. At the same time Egypt massed troops on its own border with Israel, expelled UN peacekeeping forces from Gaza and Sinai, closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, and signed a defense pact with Jordan. At Jordan’s invitation, Iraq deployed troops in Jordan. Surrounded by such hostile activity, Israel launched the air strikes that began the Six-Day War. Israel quickly took control of Gaza, Sinai and the West Bank—as well as East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, two areas from which it was also easy to launch attacks against Israel.

What was Israel to do with the Arabs who were living in those areas taken in the 1967 war—including the Palestinian Arab refugees—areas that had proved so essential to israel’s defense?. A compassionate solution to the refugee crisis would be to find them homes in Arab nations. But many Arab leaders prefer to use them in political and as well as armed attacks—including suicide bombings—against Israel.

(See more recent history in Moral Grounds above).

Patriotic Grounds

We must be mindful that there are those in the world, including Guatemalans, who would like more reason to take territory from Belize.  Approving of taking away Israel’s land—without negotiating with or even consulting Israel—would set a precedent for our enemies to do the same to us. Israel may have its shortcomings, but so do we. Our border is also very vulnerable. Let us instead do to others as we would have others do to us, by respecting other nations’ borders and condemning genocidal attacks.

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