What is the purpose
The purpose of Paradox is to encourage informed prayer for
Israel and the Palestinians in the light of God's purposes as revealed in
I feel passionately about justice for the Palestinians as
well as for the Israelis because God is a God of justice who requires his
people to act justly.
But there is much more to the situation than that.
The biblical context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
We need to take seriously the purposes of God for Israel in
the End Times. The following points are vitally important.
Scripture foretells that:
The Jewish people would regain control of
Jerusalem, i.e. they would return to the land (Luke 21:24) – this has happened
but they have returned in unbelief. (See footnote for further comment.)
God has not given up on the Jewish people and they
will eventually turn to Christ in massive numbers (Rom 11) – more and more
Jewish people are doing so. (See footnote for further comment.)
Jewish people would rebuild the Temple - there
is a strong movement towards this, based on Ezekiel 40-46, which is linked to
the growing trouble on Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The rebuilding of the Temple
is not God’s will because it is contradictory to the Gospel but that doesn’t
mean it won’t happen. (See the footnote
for further comment.)
God can use events which are not according to Gospel principles as a factor in
his purposes for the world.
The world would turn against the Jewish people (Zech
12-4; Rev 16:12-16) – this is happening partly because of anti-Semitism and
anti-Israel attitudes but also because of Israel’s intransigence over a just
settlement for the Palestinians, unjust treatment of Palestinians in the West
Bank and rejecting of world opinion in these and other matters. On another
level, growing Islamic extremism is bent on the destruction of Israel (Hamas,
Iran, ISIS and Hezbollah, in particular). (It is worth saying that Jewish
people have sometimes gained the impression that Christians are rather looking
forward to the attacks on Israel because it is an indication of the approach of
the Return of Christ. Such an attitude would, of course, be quite wrong. We
should lament such attacks). (See the footnote for further comment.)
Current events give a clear indication that we are living in
the End Times and witnessing the fulfilment of prophecy. We do not, of course,
know the timescale, but what is happening in the world today underlines the
credibility of the biblical prophecies.
We Christians should be praying:
For Jewish people to turn to Christ
For Israel to obey Scripture and so to treat the
Palestinians justly, seeking peace.
For the protection of the Jewish people and
Israel from anti-Semitic attitudes and actions, including Islamic extremism.
For the fulfilment of God’s End Time purposes,
which includes a major impact on the world for the cause of the Gospel caused
by Israel coming to recognise Jesus as their Messiah.
Christians who, like me, believe God has brought the Jewish
people back to Israel, differ over the issue of a just solution for the
Palestinians. Some believe that the West Bank (with some territorial
adjustments) and Gaza should become the State of Palestine – the two state
solution (See my article “Is it right to divide the Promised Land?”)
Others believe that the Palestinians should be incorporated into the nation of
Israel – the single state solution. The two state solution involves dangers. A
Palestinian state on Israel’s borders could become a real threat to Israel’s
security. The single state solution also has serious difficulties. It would be unjust
for the Palestinians to become second-class citizens of Israel but the Arab
birth rate is such that over a period of years there would be a majority of
Arab citizens in the democracy of Israel and the Jewish citizens would become a
All of this should be a strong motive for praying earnestly
for Israel and the Palestinians.
The moribund Peace Process
The Israeli-Palestinian peace process seems dead, although
there have been some attempts to restart it. In July there was a secret meeting
in Amman between the Israeli Interior Minister and the chief Palestinian
negotiator but it was reported that nothing new came out of it. Prime Minister Netanyahu said in September
that he supports a two-state solution and was ready to meet Palestinian
President Abbas if the latter was willing to meet. In October Netanyahu said: “I
have called on Abbas time and time again to renew peace talks without
preconditions. I am willing to meet him, he is not willing to meet me.” Later in October the French Foreign Minister
tried to arrange a summit between Netanyahu and Abbas. Netanyahu said he was
willing but Abbas has not responded. This, of course, gives the impression that
Netanyahu is the good guy and Abbas the bad guy. But many people find it
difficult to trust Netanyahu because of his inconsistencies and politicking.
Having said that, many Palestinians don’t trust Abbas. A
recent poll found that only 16% of Palestinians trusted him. 65% of them want
Abbas to resign and satisfaction with his performance fell from 44% in June to
38% in September. 35% said they would vote for Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza
and 35% said they would vote for Fatah (Abbas’s party). The poll also found that 51% of Palestinians
oppose a two-state solution and 48% support it. 42% of Palestinians think a
Palestinian state will only be achieved through violence and only 29% by
The growth of Jewish extremism
Israeli commentators report that there is a growing number
of Jewish extremists who are not simply wanting to attack Palestinians but to
destabilise what they regard as an ungodly Israeli secular democracy and to
replace it with a “Judean State.” They see Netanyahu as an apostate traitor. Such
extremists were blamed for the horrific arson attack on a Palestinian home in
July in which a baby was killed and other family members later died. The
Israeli army called it “Jewish terror.”
The words “Revenge” and “Long live the Messiah” were sprayed on the
burnt buildings. This is reminiscent of a book published in 2009 by Rabbis
Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur which justified the killing of non-Jews and
even non-Jewish children because they might pose a future threat to the Jewish
population. The authors were arrested but released without charge. Similarly, Rabbi
Yitzhak Ginsburgh praised Baruch Goldstein who massacred 29 Palestinians
worshipping in a Hebron mosque because he acted on the Jewish legal principle
There have been seven previous arson attacks by Jewish
extremists on inhabited buildings since 2012. There have also been dozens of
attacks on Palestinian mosques, businesses and farms. In most cases the
perpetrators were not found. 17 churches and mosques have been set ablaze by
Jewish extremists in the past four years, yet not a single person has been
arrested. Following the July attack thousands of Israelis demonstrated against
the Jewish extremists. It is interesting that Nehemia Shtrasler, a senior
Israeli business journalist, wrote an article entitled “A modern cult of Jewish
zealots is leading Israel toward a war of Gog and Magog.”
Israeli politicians called for such extremists to face the death penalty. Uri
Avner was a member of Irgun, a Jewish Zionist paramilitary group, but left it,
saying “I didn't like the methods of terror applied by the Irgun at the time.”
He did not favour retaliating to Arab attacks by killing Arabs. In August this
year he wrote a disturbing article about “Jewish Terrorists” in which he said:
“I believe [these] groups in today's Israel are far more dangerous than most
people believe. This is not a handful of wild weeds as we are led to believe.
This is a national cancer that can spread quickly in our national body. I have
seen it before.”
Meanwhile Bentzi Gopstein, leader of the Lehava anti-Gentile organisation said
following the arson on the Church of Lovaes and Fishes in Galilee that people
should “go out and burn churches.”
Trouble in the West Bank
However, it is not just Jewish extremists causing trouble.
In the first eight months of 2015 the Israeli government ordered the demolition
of 331 Palestinian buildings in the West Bank resulting in 457 people,
including 263 children, losing their homes. They were built without permits
because Israel refuses to grant permits. The UN found that only 33 of 2,020
Palestinian planning applications were approved.
At the same time, West Bank Jewish settlements are being
expanded despite the international community regarding them as illegal. In 2006
it was discovered that back in 1968 Theodor Meron, Israeli foreign ministry’s
legal adviser, stated that “Civilian settlement in the administered territories
contravenes explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.” But
the Israeli government has persisted in ignoring this ruling. Tzipi Hotovely,
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister said in September that the West Bank was not
“even on the list of options we’re offering the Palestinians” and will remain
under Israeli “de facto sovereignty.”
Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian President is 80 and cutting back
on his workload. People have said he is exhausted and has lost faith in the two
state solution to the conflict. He has said recently that, in view of the
failure of the peace talks, the Palestinian Authority can’t continue to be
bound by agreement with Israel. He accused Israel of not keeping to agreements
and of seeking to stop any progress towards a two state solution. More serious
a recent poll found that 57% of Palestinians support the resumption of an
intifada (armed uprising). One Israeli
newspaper said: “There is no more doubt regarding the ambition driving this
government: to completely thwart a two-state solution, to further entrench the
occupation until it becomes irreversible — assuming that’s not already the case
— and to prevent any possibility of a deal with the Palestinians based on a
partition of the land.”
Sadly violence has increased with killings on both sides.
Conflict on Temple Mount
Temple Mount is sacred to both Judaism and Islam but Jews
are not allowed to pray there. It is the site of the Jewish Temple and there is
a growing movement to work towards the rebuilding of the Temple. Jewish
religious schools are teaching children to “Long for the third Temple” and this
could lead them to be involved in violent action. There are fears that
fundamentalist Jewish Israelis are seeking to change the oversight of Temple
Mount which has been governed by the Jordanians since 1967.On the other hand, Sheik
Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, said recently on Israeli
television that there has never been a Jewish temple on the Temple Mount in
Jerusalem because there has been a mosque on the site “since the creation of
the world.” This piece of ridiculous propaganda could fan the flames of
conflict. Hussein has previously called for suicide bombings against Israelis.
The tension has risen on Temple Mount and the Palestinians have just rejected
an Israeli plan, developed in co-operation with Jordan, to erect surveillance
cameras to try and counteract any provocative behaviour.
In July this year senior Israeli army officers recommended
an almost complete lifting of the blockade against Gaza: opening the border,
allowing Palestinians to work in Israel and to travel to Jordan, allowing more
imports and exports into the Strip. An adviser to the Turkish Prime Minister
said there would be a comprehensive agreement between Israel and Hamas. Tony
Blair was acting as mediator but Hanan Ashrawi, the Palestinian spokesperson
accused him of trying to increase the division between Gaza and the West Bank
which could hinder the development of a Palestinian state. Hassan Yousef, a
Palestinian MP, listed the conditions for a truce between Hamas and Israel as
also including a great improvement in Gazan living conditions, reconstruction
of Gaza after the devastation of the recent war and freedom for people and
goods to travel in and out of Gaza by sea.
Israel denied the negotiations but there seems to be
evidence they actually took place. Then in late August four children were
killed by an Israeli attack on a Gaza beach. There have since been rocket
attacks on Israel and retaliatory strikes.
Israel is facing an increasingly negative international
reaction to the stalling of the peace talks and the regular expansion of the
West Bank settlements. The Boycott, Divest and Sanctions campaign is growing in
Europe. A European Union boycott would cost some $23.3 billion of exports and
cost some 36,500 jobs. On November 11th 2015 the EU agreed to label
goods which are from the West Bank which will facilitate a boycott.
136 of the 193 countries in the UN have recognised Palestine.
This represents over 82% of the world population. In October 343 British
academics published a full page advert in The Guardian which stated: “As
scholars associated with British universities, we are deeply disturbed by
Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian land, the intolerable human rights
violations that it inflicts on all sections of the Palestinian people and its
apparent determination to resist any feasible settlement.”
Dr Alon Liel is the former director general of the Foreign
Ministry of Israel and was also Israel's ambassador to South Africa. Ilan
Baruch is a former Israeli ambassador to South Africa. They wrote in The
Guardian in September 2015 about the statement of Tzipi Hotovely, Deputy
Foreign Minister of Israel, that Judea and Samaria were given to Israel by God
and she believed that when the public understands that the world will stop
condemning Israel for the occupation and settlements. Liel and Baruch
commented: “Europe must understand the direction in which we are heading. We
are racing towards a single Israeli-Palestinian state that will end up as the
apartheid state of Israel.
Such a joint state will not allow the Palestinians to exercise their full civil
rights. Europe and the UK must speak up in order to save the two-state idea.
Their leaders need to say to Israel: “This land is not exclusively yours. It
also belongs to another indigenous people that have been living there for
centuries: the Palestinians. We recognise this people’s right to share this
land and its right to an independent state.” This
article graphically portrays the polarisation of Israeli opinion.
The rise of Islamic extremism
A recent report states that Christianity “could disappear
completely” within 10 years in parts of the Middle East, as Isis and other
groups continue their violent persecution of the faith. This also inevitably
threatens the security of Israel.
Jews and Arabs to come to faith in Christ.
Christians to understand God’s purposes for Israel.
Israel to recognise its divine call to act justly towards the Palestinians.
the Palestinians to resist moving towards a third intifada.
the protection of the Jewish people and Israel from anti-Semitic attitudes and
actions, including Islamic extremism.
the renewal of an effective peace process.
the curbing of both Jewish and Palestinian extremism.
the international community to act constructively to facilitate peace with
justice for both sides.
Editorial Oct 02, 2015.