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The war in Gaza and rebellion against the God of the Bible

A man holds a banner that says: FROM THE RIVER TO THE SEA, PALESTINE WILL BE FREE, at a pro-Palestinian rally in Warsaw, Poland, Nov. 18, 2023. (Photo: IMAGO/Marek Antoni Iwanczuk via Reuters)

Is it alright to bring God into the discussion about the war between Israel and Hamas? Are the Israelis not just colonialists, annexing the land and displacing the native population? A short review of the history of the region in question and its biblical context sketches an astoundingly simple answer to the question of the war in Gaza.

It is especially people who consider themselves to be fighting for a better, fairer world, who are filled with righteous fury towards aggressors – in this case, Israelis and Jews around the world – and allow their blind sympathy for victims to propel them along, in this case, the Palestinian people. “It is a matter of fairness, of human rights,” many say, appalled. This week in Sudan, Nigeria, and Somalia, thousands were raped, murdered, or displaced, but most people do not even register that as a sidenote. North Korea, China, Pakistan, Yemen, and many other countries who spit upon human rights as a matter of course, where people are slaughtered like animals daily, are given neither sympathy nor their share of righteous fury. There must be something about the conflict between Israel and Palestine that captures the attention of not just Islamic, but also non-Islamic nations. 2 Everyone is forced to take a side – and often, the side that is taken stands again Israel and the Jews. The fact is that the question of the God of the Bible is not just a religious footnote in this conflict, but is actually the main factor, even if its relevance and application are often haphazard, unthinking, and unconscious. The Bible is the most-read book in the whole world. It has heavily influenced many nations, traditions, and cultures. In the Bible, the Jews are called the chosen people of God. In and through them, God wants to both broach the topic of His relationship with humanity and bring it to fruition. Important to note is that it is not the self-image of the Jews that matters in this respect, but alone the fact that God chose them and connected His name to them forever. He gave this heavily disputed strip of land as an inheritance to their forefather Abraham and his descendants, Isaac and Jacob, about 2100 years before Christ (vis. Gen 12:6-7, 13:15, 26:2- 5, 28:13-15, 35:9-11).

Israel’s History Goes Way Back

After the people of Israel lived in the promised land for 500 years as a loose collection of tribes, they were ruled by King Saul. King Saul was the first king of Israel and the founder of Israel as a concrete nation-state. The Kingdom of Israel changed as it grew larger, was divided and later subjugated by a number of conquering nations, but it remained a nation until the year 135 A.D. That year, the Romans put down the Bar Kokhba revolt; Emperor Hadrian changed the name of this rebellious province from “Judea” to “Syria-Palestine” to erase the memory of the Jewish people from history. From the eighth century onwards for 1,300 years, the land was ruled by the Muslims – with a short interlude of 90 years during which the Crusaders held it. WWI brought the end of Islamic rule, and the Holy Land was brought under the mandate of Great Britain as a protectorate. To go into detail about the inglorious and conflict-seeding rule of Britain in the Orient would go beyond the scope of this article. The only concession to the Jewish people was the Balfour Declaration in 1917 which promised them a home in Palestine. However, mounting pressure from the Arabic nations caused the British administration to prevent the immigration of Jews into Palestine during WWII. The British sent many Jewish refugees back to Europe, where they found death in Nazi concentration camps. Incited and supported by the Arab nations, the ethnic Arabic inhabitants of Palestine emphatically resisted the immigration of Jews. A struggle for survival ensued, with terror and assassinations on both sides. The British offered neither help nor protection, instead turning to the international community (UN) to ask 3 for a solution. The international community decided to divide the land into two parts: A Jewish one, and an Arabic one. The Arabs would have East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. The Jews accepted the division, the Arabs rejected it. When the Jews declared the Nation of Israel on their allotted territory in 1948, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt immediately declared war on them and attacked the Jewish state as soon as the British left. The nascent nation fought desperately for survival and was able to win the war through God’s intervention. Many Arabs fled from Palestine into the surrounding countries during the war. The Arab nations promised them that they would drive the Jews into the ocean soon enough and that the refugees would be able to return to a liberated, Jew-free Palestine. Most of these refugees still live, three generations later, in the same refugee camps, because their Arabic brothers refuse to give them citizenship in their new homes.

God Is the One Who Acts

The idea that the State of Israel is only a product of the collective guilty conscience of Europeans is not just widely spread in the Islamic world. Israel has become a dangerous risk to world peace. The voices calling for Israel to yield to the stipulations and demands of the Arabic world and withdraw to the 1967 borders are getting louder and louder. For the Jews, this would mean handing over East Jerusalem – and with it, the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, the site of their ethnic and religious identity per se – to the Muslims. For 2000 years, the scattered Jewish people have prayed every year at their feast of Passover: “Next year in Jerusalem!” God scattered His people among every other people of the world to punish them for their disobedience and disregard of His commandments. But He also promised them, that one day He would gather them together out of all nations and bring them back to the land of their fathers, to fulfil His will concerning them and all nations of the world. You can read this in Ezekiel 20:40-44, 36:16-37, and 37:21-23, as well as Isaiah 11:12, 43:6, 49:22, and Jeremiah 31:10. God is the one who acts in the history of the Jews, even if they themselves do not believe it. The fight against the Jewish people and their claim to the land is, in the end, a fight against God and His plans

The Fight for the Inheritance of the Chosen People

The conflict between Israel and Palestine is not just political. That a two-state solution is no answer to the problem at hand is easy to conclude from the absolute lack of interest in it on the side of the Arabs. The Arabic states had nearly 20 years between 1948 and 1967 to raise up a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital – and the UN backing them every step of the way. During this time, East Jerusalem and the West Bank belonged to the Kingdom of Jordan and Gaza to Egypt. But these states did not consider the option of declaring a Palestinian state and sending the refugees there for even a moment. On the contrary: In 1964, the Egyptian president and leading figure of Pan-Arabism Gamal Abdel Nasser founded the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation) with the express goal of freeing Palestine from the Jews. Other Arabic states involved themselves in this project. Yasser Arafat, the long-time leader of the PLO, and his successor Mahmud Abbas rejected every single Israeli offer of a two-state solution. In the end, they were not free to make any decisions on their own. The goals of the Arabic-Islamic nations that sponsored them were much more fundamental: The Jewish state was to cease to exist, to disappear entirely. To reach this goal, the suffering of the Palestinian people must be upheld in order to leverage it against the West and Israel itself. This objective was validated in 1969 in the course of the “Fourth Conference of the Academy of Islamic Research” at the Al-Azhar University in Cairo. In 1967, the government of Israel got wind of an assault planned by the Arabic states. In six days, the Israeli army was able to defeat and push back the superior forces of the Arabs with a pre-emptive strike. This was a huge shock to the entirety of the Islamic world: For the first time since the Crusaders, Temple Mount was not in Islamic hands. This experience deeply unsettled Islamic self-perception. The Muslims understand themselves as the chosen faith community that God assigned to rule the world in the name of the true religion. In the eyes of Islam, Christians are ultimately just idolaters since they worship Jesus in addition to Allah. Jews, however, are a real problem: They understand themselves as the people of God, and that undermines the Islamic self-perception as God’s true chosen people. Islam teaches that God discarded the once-chosen Jewish people and that because the Muslims succeeded them as God’s chosen people, all the spiritual and physical inheritances of the Jews now belong to the Muslims. All the Jewish prophets and important figures such as David and Solomon were declared Muslims posthumously and integrated into the Islamic concept. In Islam, Jerusalem is considered the City of Prophets. Whoever rules her is also the legitimate inheritor of her spiritual authority. By losing control of Jerusalem in 1967, this spiritual authority and the Islamic claim to world domination were badly shaken.

The Islamic Perspective

In 1969, at the aforementioned conference at Al-Azhar University, the most notable spiritual and political leaders of the Islamic world came 5 together to discuss why Allah would allow his chosen Islamic community to be defeated by the Jews whom he had discarded. They came to the conclusion that this could only have happened because the Islamic community had allowed itself to be corrupted by the ideology of the unbelieving West, adopting godless concepts such as human rights and democracy. Their solution was: Back to the true Islam of the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet! Back to world-domination under the rule of Islam! An explanation was offered for the return of the Jews into the Holy Land and City of Prophets: A passage was found in the Islamic traditions (the hadith) where the return of the Jews at the end of time was foretold as early as the eighth century. This would happen so that the Islamic community might administer God’s judgment over them. The conquering of the world by Islam would be prefaced by the total destruction of this people, rejected by God. After 1969, since the Islamic nations were not able to defeat Israel militarily, they began sending the other nations a very clear message through economic pressure and targeted terror: “Those who call themselves friends of the Jews are our enemies.” Coupled with the accusation that the West does not care about social justice or the suffering of the Arabs, they did not have to wait long for the desired reaction to manifest. No nation has ever been irrationally condemned as many times by the UN Security Council as Israel. In the year 2023, the UN Assembly passed no less than 14 resolutions against Israel alone, and seven resolutions total against all other centres of conflict worldwide. This is rather astounding since Israel is the only state in the entire Middle East that allows its minorities access to every level of political and social position. The same kind of irrational action can also be seen in the attitude of the UN towards the current war between Israel and Hamas. On the 7th of October 2023, militants of the Palestinian terror organisation Hamas attacked Israel.

They deliberately murdered civilians and took a great many hostages. Their openly declared goal was to liberate Jerusalem, destroy and banish the Jews, and to bring the rule of Islam to the entire world. One of their most important commanders, Al Zahar, even broadcasted this on YouTube. When Israel began to defend itself, they were immediately depicted in all manner of social media as a state of violent villains. The cold-blooded calculation of Hamas, that Israel’s retaliation would also claim many civilian victims, paid off. For the release of the hostages, Hamas demanded nothing less than the end of the war and Israel’s definitive withdrawal from Gaza. On top of that, hundreds of condemned Palestinian terrorists were to be released. This is also how the architect of the October massacre by Hamas, Yahya 6 Sinwar, achieved freedom in 2011: By being traded for the Israeli hostage Gilad Shalit. To acquiesce to these demands would be an unthinkable endangerment for Israel. In that case, Hamas – bolstered by their success – would surely not cease fighting for their goal of the destruction of Israel. Completely ignoring Hamas’ self-proclaimed goals and showing an absolutely flabbergasting ignorance of the Islamic world-view, western states demanded that Israel end their offensive and strive for a two-state solution. As if Hamas were interested in anything even approaching peaceful coexistence with a Jewish state.

God’s Claim

Under the auspices of this war, the Jewish community around the world came under pressure. Antisemitism showed itself to be shockingly strong and widespread. How can it be that self-proclaimed fighters for human rights gather in the streets side-by-side with Muslims who have no qualms about implementing violence? Adherents of the LGBTQ+ - movement and feminists have an incredibly short half-life in a state ruled by Islam; Islamic law forbids such ideologies. What unites them in this fight is the question of absolute authority. Both Muslims and non-Muslims revolt against the God of the Bible, and this leads to the most improbable bedfellows. This God claims to be the creator of all life and demands accountability from His creations. Whoever wants to be their own boss and rejects God’s rule because of it will make Him and all who believe in Him an object of hate to themselves. God says that all who trust in their own wisdom and strength are condemned and cursed ( Jeremiah 17:5-6). But He promises those blessings and life who submit to His rule ( Jeremiah 17:7-8).

Adversaries of God

The spirit of adversity and contempt towards God’s reign in the Bible is personified in the person of Esau, also called Edom. For a meal of red lentils, he sold his firstborn birthright. The birthright that marked him as the carrier of God’s promises. With this, he expressed his contempt for the rule of God in his life. When his brother Jacob then appropriated the firstborn birthright for himself, Edom’s contempt turned into hate towards his brother and all his descendants. All the prophets of the Bible bear witness that Edom will do anything to destroy the descendants of Jacob in order to wipe out God’s claim to rule. The Jews are the expression of this claim. This rebellion against God’s claim to rule unites all nations that trust in their own strength and wisdom in their fight against Him. This phenomenon is summarized in Psalm 2: “Why do the nations con- 7 spire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, ’let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.”

Jesus Is King

Jesus says: “I am the way and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” ( John 14:6). This is an unbelievably unreasonable thing to expect the proud and independent spirit of humanity to accept. Even if not all Jews believe in the Messiah and Saviour Jesus, their story is still closely bound together with Him. He is the only way to salvation for every person. God brought His Jewish people back to their country in order to write the story of the Last Days. This has everything to do with the reign of peace that the Messiah will bring to all nations (vis. Isaiah 2:1-5, 25:6-9, and Revelation 21:1-8). But before this promised reign of peace begins, the war of the nations against God’s claim must come to pass. Jesus called Jerusalem the City of the Great King. He is that Great King, the one whose reign will manifest itself in Jerusalem. He will hold the Lords of the nations accountable (vis. Zachariah 12:13, 14:1-20, Matthew 10:22, 24:9-11, and John 15:8). The God of the Bible says of Himself that He resists the prideful and lives with those who have humble spirits. He loves all people – Jew and non-Jew. He wants to save them from their downfall. He wants to forgive them, reconcile them, and give them joy, peace, and true freedom – but He has terms. He tells us what they are in His word: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Marcel is the director of “Community of Reconciliation” (COR), which he founded in 1988. He came to Israel in 1994 with his wife Regula and their four now grown children. Marcel serves as an elder in a messianic congregation in Jerusalem. He is involved with other leaders in Jerusalem and nationwide, facilitating fellowship, unity and cooperative efforts to advance God’s purposes for the messianic body in Jerusalem and in Israel.

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