It is both surprising and disappointing how people who do not feel steeped in politics or biblical knowledge lack the moral clarity to comment on what's happening in Israel and Gaza. People are afraid of the bullies. Afraid to be wrong. Afraid to appear anti-Arab or “anti-Palestinian”.
Let’s start with some biblical and secular history. Around 2100 BC, The Land was given by G-d to the children of Abraham (see Genesis 12). The children of Israel were expelled (by G-d) about 597 BC with a prophecy that they would one day return. Jews remained in the land continuously since Xerxes allowed them to return in 538 BC, but they did not control The Land, except for a brief period under Hasmonean rule in 142 BC.
The Land changed hands about a dozen times after that with a Roman emperor Hadrian renaming it from Judea to "Palestina" in about 135 AD to insult the Jewish people after an unsuccessful revolt. The Philistines had ceased to exist some six hundred years BC, but Rome resurrected the name as an insult to the Jews.
The Land was fought over for centuries among the Babylonians, the Persians (438-333 BC), the Greeks (333-63), Jewish autonomy under the Hasmonean Kingdom (142-129 BC), the Romans (63 BC to 324 AD), the Byzantines (324-638 AD), the Muslim Period (638-1099 AD), the Crusaders (1095-1298 AD), Ottoman Turks (1517-1917).
At various times, Jews started returning to The Land, not feeling very welcome elsewhere. This movement increased in the 1800s, and more so after Britain gained control over the land following WWI in 1917.
When Theodore Herzl saw the anti-semitism of the Dreyfuss Affair he wrote about the need for a Jewish homeland in The Land in his book "The Jewish State" in 1896. In 1897, he organized the First Zionist Congress, an effort to galvanize the Jewish community worldwide to work towards a Jewish homeland in Israel. (My great grandfather, Mordechai Ben Ami, a contemporary of Herzl’s, participated in that meeting). These efforts inspired Bible believing Englishmen to support a return of The Land to the Jewish people. When Herzl petitioned the British government to establish a Jewish homeland in Uganda, the British denied the request. Instead, Britain stated its support for a Jewish homeland in Israel in the The Balfour Declaration. This was affirmed by the WWI allies of Great Britain, France, Italy and Japan in the San Remo Conference of 1920.
Herzl had predicted in “The Jewish State” that anti-semitism would get much worse in Europe before it got better, unless the Jews had a homeland of their own. He didn't know how dreadfully right he would be!
During the early 1900s more and more Jews began to emigrate back to The Land. Still more in the 1930s as Hitler came to power. My mother's father (Ben Ami’s son) came around 1928. My mother's mother in 1936, three years later her parents and her sisters were killed by the Nazis. After WWII, Jews who survived the concentration camps came in droves.
Arabs who had squatted on the land, some for multiple generations, either sold their land to the Jews and in many cases were forcibly displaced. That is the history of The Land and the peoples who lived there over the millenia.
On a spiritual level, Messianic Rabbi Jonathan Cahn once explained that “In every generation Satan deceives a group of people into believing they are doing something good by attempting to eliminate the Jewish people. He does so because he believes that if he is successful, then he can prove that G-d is not faithful to His promises. And this is why Satan doesn’t like the Christians much better – because they have been grafted into those promises.” Or, as Pastor Gary Hamrick of Cornerstone Chapel said in his sermon last week, “Anti-semitism is Satanism”.
To me this explains the utter hatred Hamas and Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad have against the Jews and their desire to wipe them off of the face of the earth, and why that sentiment seems so similar to the goals of the Nazis. We are not just dealing with a territorial dispute which a segment of good-willed, displaced Arabs wish to resolve. Rather, there are demonic elements at work here who wish to perpetuate this dispute out of sheer, blind hatred of the Jewish people. These radical, hate-filled terrorist organizations have intimidated, manipulated, and basically imprisoned Palestinian Arabs who just want to live in peace.
There are 22 Arab countries in the world. Why haven't they welcomed and absorbed those displaced Arabs into their societies? To some extent maybe because they don't want the headache. But also because extreme elements want to perpetuate the political problem of the "Palestinians", ie the Arabs who were living in the Land under then-British rule. The truth is the "Palestinian" Arabs are political pawns in a geo-political and ideological-religious dispute, and are prisoners held in glorified refugee camps in Gaza and the West Bank.
So we can see from both biblical and secular history, the Jews in Israel are neither colonizers or occupiers. The Palestinian Arabs don’t need to freed from Israel, they need to be freed from Hamas and other terroristic and totalitarian groups holding them captive in a society with very limited possibilities of pursuing a normal and successful life. They should be not just pitied, but assisted in relocating to one of the many Arab controlled countries. And let the Jewish people live in their historic and biblical homeland along with the Arabs who wish to do so alongside them peaceably.
And let there be Peace and Shalom in The Land.
John Desser is the son of an Orthodox rabbi, great-grandson of Mordechai Ben Ami, and Deputy Director of the Alliance for Israel Advocacy. He resides in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.