Whose side should Christians take in the Israel-Palestine conflict?
Readers who have learned their lessons well will, of course, see the title question as a fallacy—the fallacy of a complex question. Nevertheless, I keep getting variations of that question; some fallacious and others not—and so I decided to make a few comments.
The answer to the above question is “neither.” Both sides are in the wrong in certain ways, and America should have no entangling alliance with either, and no obligation to either. Those who understand biblical laws for warfare and foreign policy will have no problem with this. But many are still confused, largely because of a few factors:
1) their eschatology mistakenly informs them that modern-day “Israel” is something special;
2) their facts are delimited by one major news outlet or another (often of genus Vulpes), or filtered through end-times websites; and
3) their doctrine of warfare and foreign policy is pagan and not biblical.
Thus I responded to one of my inquirers the same as I would respond to anyone on how to answer the question:
“If you understand the meaninglessness of modern Israel in regard to prophecy; if you understand the basics of a biblical view of foreign policy and military and war, taxation, government, etc.; then you should be able to decide for yourself.”
For a little help in this regard, I offer the following:
First, in regard to the facts of the situation, there is so much propaganda and so much [mis] information on both sides that it is almost impossible to sort it out. The news-filter problem is further complicated by various permutations of the conflict over the past century (one could say the past several millennia as well), so that no matter who could be shown to be in the right at any given time, another can back up to another point in time to argue the reverse. This phenomenon eventually would take us back to Genesis 12, and I will address that in a moment.
As far as facts go, a recent article in the Huffington Post is the most balanced one-stop-shop I have seen recently. I am shocked Huff-Post ran it, because it is hardly the standard pro-Palestine leftist propaganda that leftists run—far from it. The author is a Pakistani-Canadian who criticizes Hamas and exonerates Israel as much as, or more than, he does vice versa. He argues (I summarize):
1. The leftist media has a double standard that is anti-Israel while ignoring Muslim-on-Muslim atrocities (including even fraudulent photographs of atrocities committed by Muslim terrorists attributed to Israel).
2. The heart of this conflict is religious, including both Israel’s divine-right claim to all the disputed and Palestinian-inhabited land and Islam’s mission to eradicate Jews as directed in both the Quran and Hamas’ own charter.
3. Israeli’s do not target civilians on purpose. The claim lacks common sense, and again involves a huge double standard: “ISIS killed more civilians in two days (700 plus) than Israel has in two weeks.”
4. Hamas does in fact use Palestinian civilians as human shields, “Because Hamas knows its cause is helped when Gazans die. If there is one thing that helps Hamas most — one thing that gives it any legitimacy — it is dead civilians. Rockets in schools. Hamas exploits the deaths of its children to gain the world’s sympathy.”
5. Israel officially disengaged from Gaza in 2005, and even forcefully removed its own people who did not comply. There are not more Israeli “settlements” or military on the ground there.
6. Gazan death tolls are higher mainly because Hamas wants it high for PR value. Defense is a lower priority.
7. Yet Israel’s “minor” offenses have massive impact, including the continued expansion of settlements and occupation in other Palestinian areas—things every U.S. president since Nixon has “unequivocally opposed.”
There is more to the overall issue than this, and more holes and nuances need to be filled out. And while the issues above seem far lopsided against Palestine and/or Hamas, Israel’s dogged expansions are mind-numbingly stupid, politically—except against a backdrop of the belief in divine superiority as a nation, and/or divine entitlement to the land. The policy makes little to no sense otherwise.
And this is where many Christians dangerously go astray. It is here that I reproduce a section from The Bible & War in America:
While for some the mental hurdle will be such political devotions, others cling to military might out of their view of Israel and the end-times. I am not going to go into a full discussion of eschatology and foreign policy here except to say that this view is false. It takes a very special, recent, and convoluted view of Bible prophecy to derive the position that Christians today should specially favor the modern nation called “Israel” with foreign aid and military support, and help her against her Islamic neighbors. This view is most often supported by referring to the promise to Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse” (Gen. 12:3). The most definitive work expressing this view is also the clearest: “Politically speaking, this statement is God’s foreign policy to the Gentiles in their relationship with the Jewish people.”(1)
This view is easily debunked (though not thoroughly debunked here, which would take too much space) by simply considering the biblical context: this promise was given to Abraham before he had any children. If we are to take just this verse at this point in Scripture—as is so often done—as the basis of blessing nations in relation to “Abraham,” then we must apply it equally to all of Abraham’s children. This includes Ishmael, the father of the Arab nations. This would mean of course that we should give just as much foreign and military aid to all of modern Israel’s Arab neighbors! But this is absurd from a biblical view point, and the definitive author above would agree. On what basis is it absurd? It is so, because later Scripture qualifies and narrows the definition of Abraham’s seed for us. Agreed.
But here’s the rub: the means of qualifying who actually inherits the promise becomes the very means of disqualifying modern-day Israel as well. The argument is that later Scripture qualifies the promise as not to Ishmael, but to Isaac, and then not to Esau, but to Jacob, who is later renamed “Israel.” True enough. But this sets a precedent of qualification that does not—as the proponents of this view would like you to believe—stop with Jacob. Paul himself uses this very method of argument in Romans 9 to prove that Israel also shall be redefined in light of Christ, “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel” (9:6). He concludes,
What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame” (Rom. 9:30–33).
In other words, the kingdom of God, the kingdom of the seed of Abraham, is made up of the faithful, not the physical Jews per se. It is based on faith and not on bloodlines. Indeed, in the apostolic era, most Jews were not going to make it into the kingdom, and yet the resulting entity would still be called “Israel”—that is, the Church. Now it is clear why Jesus could tell the Jewish leadership of the day that they were not the seed of Abraham nor even children of God, but “You are of your father the devil” (John 8:44).
For this very reason He would put them on the cursed end of “God’s foreign policy.” Quoting the same prophecy of the stumbling stone as Paul did (Rom. 9:32–33; cf. Isa. 8:14–15; 1 Pet. 2:8), Jesus said to the Jews of His day:
“Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him” (Matt. 21:43–44).
American Christians have simply got to get past the view that there is something special about the ethno-political entity established in the land of Israel in 1948. This is a huge mental hurdle for many Christians, but it is also an enormous theological delusion that leads so many to continue promoting an unbiblical view of war and the military, especially in regard to having a strong threatening presence in the Middle East.
For completing the three issues with a biblical view of foreign policy and war, I would recommend reading the rest of The Bible & War in America as well as Restoring America One County at a Time. It is far past time that Christians get a fully biblical view of this conflict, and then call on our leaders and nation to stay the heck out of it.
- Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology(Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1994), 838.
Joel McDurmon, Ph.D. in Theology from Pretoria University is the Director of Research for American Vision. He has authored seven books and also serves as a lecturer and regular contributor to the American Vision website. He joined American Vision’s staff in the June of 2008. Joel, his wife and four sons live in Dallas, Georgia.
*A brief comment from Gospelbbq –
Joel McDurmon’s article demonstrates an alternate biblical view from either the popular conservative view or the popular liberal view regarding Christians in America. As such, it is worth serious consideration for American Christians in relating to how their government is influenced to view and involve itself in Israeli/Middle East relations. Joel’s article, from my perspective, dealt correctly with Israel’s past and present position. However, much of Christianity’s present view of Israel is based on Israel’s future position, i.e., when much of ethnic Israel turns to Christ. (For Dispensational Premillenialism this occurs halfway through a future “Tribulation” period. For Postmillenialism this occurs in the future after Egypt and Assyria turn to Christ). So, just as Mr. McDurmon described it; the Kingdom of God was taken away from Israel with their rejection of Jesus Christ as they were cut-off from the promise. But, biblical prophecy also describes a future Israel that accepts Christ Jesus after the Age of the Gentiles. This future view of Israel is also one of the reasons why Christians hold Israel in a special light. On one hand Christianity was grafted out of Judaism – although Israel has been cut-off –, in the future, they eventually come to recognize and accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. But, we also need to consider that biblical prophecy also identifies Egypt and Assyria turning to Christ in a future era, prior to Israel doing so.
In his article, Mr. McDurmon addressed the biblical view of past and present Israel, but neglected to specifically address the future prophetic biblical view as considered by much of Christianity in America. Even so, his remarks are well worth seriously considering in both a theological and foreign policy context.