Whose Land on Road Map for Peace?

President Bush leads The Quartet (the U.S., United Nations, European Union and Russia) in an effort to unite Israel and Palestinians in a multi-stage peace plan that would end in the inauguration of a new Palestinian state. Meanwhile, Hamas, Hezbollah and other militant Islamic groups seek to derail what they see as an attempted obliteration of their cause (complete destruction of the Israeli state) by means of terror attacks. Israel characteristically retaliates. Caught in the middle is a silent minority: Palestinian Christians. As LeadershipU wrote a year ago when this feature first appeared, nothing seems clear about the protracted Palestinian-Israeli conflict except that nothing seems clear.

Pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian, neither Jews nor Christians can agree on even fundamental levels regarding the thorny mess. Arab Muslims see the bloody dispute as a rallying point for Islam, meanwhile making no obvious attempts to take in the Palestinians they eagerly portray as beleaguered and persecuted. (This week, as militants who had holed up in The Church of the Nativity for weeks sought exile, no Arab state received them—just as happened in 1948, when the British Partition Plan created displaced Palestinians).

Zionist Jews, some secular and some religious, lay claim to either the political right to the current state of Israel or, alternately, the Biblical promise and mandate to possess all of historical Palestine and beyond. Christians divide along several lines, including those:

Daily news coverage—at least in the United States—picks up the story of struggles as if it started only recently. This myopia—often leaning towards the pro-Palestinian side—overlooks a long history of Diaspora (dispersion of Jews, thus exiled from their original homeland) and persecution, as well as Jewish and Christian Zionism (most notably springing from Victorian England). Above all, mainstream news outlets seldom give attention to the siren calls for Israel's utter destruction by large numbers of Palestinians and Arab Muslims and the prohibitive environment this creates for peace. On the other hand, the conservative—sometimes evangelical Christian—reaction tends to overlook Palestinian human rights and the sizeable population of Palestinian Christians.

Few other causes polarize and inflame like this one. Israel compares its military actions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (areas Israel conquered during the 1967 War) to America's War on Terrorism, recalling the Arab refusal to honor the UN Partition Plan of 1947 and immediate attack on the day-old state of Israel. Palestinian militant groups view so-called suicide bombings as necessary to secure freedom for their long-displaced people. The world looks on, parts of which show increasing anti-Semitism, especially Western Europe. American Christians call on President Bush to denounce the rising anti-Semitic sentiments (see link in list below).

How is a layperson to understand the issues, given the plethora of perspectives: secular Jewish Zionist, scriptural Jewish Zionist, Christian Dual-Covenant Zionist, Christian Zionist (not Dual-Covenant), Palestinian Christian (tolerant of Jewish right to land or otherwise), anti-Zionist, anti-Semitic, etc.? A brief, biblical-evangelical (but balanced within that category) viewpoint on the convoluted issues follows in our Special Focus. You will also find a Jewish Zionist perspective, along with some requisite history and resources for further research from various viewpoints.

—Leadership University Editor/Webmaster, Byron Barlowe


Featured Articles:

The War That Never Ends
Bob Jones
One war may be over, but 600 miles from Baghdad, accords end in discord, roadmaps to peace lead nowhere fast, and Israel perches as ever atop 12,000 square miles of fully fused powderkeg. The latest peace plan for Israelis and Palestinians came apart last week when Palestinian terrorists set off five suicide attacks in less than 48 hours. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was only hours away from departing for the United States to launch plans for a Bush administration roadmap to peace when the first bomb went off in Hebron. As President Bush tries to navigate a course between Israeli security and Palestinian freedom, and contemplates his first presidential trip to the region this month, both sides continue to ignore a key constituency—Palestinian Christians.

Voices of the Voiceless
Bob Jones
A brief but poignant snapshot of the state of the oft-forgotten Palestinian Christians. Although their loyalties are torn between Israel and a desire for their own Palestinian homeland, most admit their lot would be better under Israel, especially if the alternative is a fundamentalist Islamic governement.

Five Key Biblical Arguments For Israel’s Right to the Land
John Kanter
Kanter, a Messianic Jew and traveling speaker, outlines well-footnoted reasons for the Biblical claim to the land traditionally known as Palestine. His views are based in dispensationalist theology and highlight the eternal (or unconditional) covenant that the God of Israel made with Abraham and his descendents.

Land Divine?
John Piper
How should bible-believing Christians align themselves in the Jewish-Palestinian conflict? There are biblical reasons for treating both sides with compassionate public justice in the same way that disputes should be settled between nations generally. In other words, the Bible does not teach us to be partial today to Israel or to the Palestinians because either has a special divine status. Israel has a unique place in God's plans, but this status does not warrant a claim, at the present time, to divine prerogatives. Note: from a covenant theological position.

The Zionist Imperative
Emil L. Fackenheim
A Jewish Zionist perspective: Fackenheim, by stepping through the mid-Twentieth Century history of the Jews, argues for the reasonableness--actually the inevitability, if they were to survive--of a Jewish homeland, given the persecution and shunning of a homeless people.

The Untold Story
Jamie Cowen
The author discusses the role of Christian Zionists in the establishment of modern-day Israel.

Israel's History Written in Advance
Robert C. Newman, condensed by Rich Milne
In the Old Testament, God made many predictions about nations and cities and their fate. With remarkable accuracy, archeology shows that in every case, what God predicted would happen even hundreds of years later, came to pass. That the Jews still exist is an amazing testimony to God's faithfulness even as He judged the nations around them.

Who is 'Israel' and What is Her Future?
Jonathan Went
The author discusses the issue of what, biblically, is meant by the term 'Israel,' and what God has planned for the future of the Jewish nation.

Related Articles and Links:

'To bigotry no sanction'
On April 25, 2002, seven Christian leaders wrote the following open letter to President Bush in response to a growing number of anti-Semitic incidents around the world.

Jerusalem: At the Centre of God's Plans?
Dr. Peter Walker
In the light of Old Testament history and prophecy, many would argue that Jerusalem continues to have a central role within God's purposes today. Yet the New Testament offers a radically new perspective on the city, pointing to Christ as the true temple and the one in whom the promises of restoration were fulfilled. Jesus himself predicts the imminent end of the temple. The consequences of this biblical teaching prove to be far-reaching - both for the church's mission in the world and for religious and political issues in Jerusalem today.

Remnant Theology: A Different Perspective on Israel and the Church
John Gay
Through the centuries there have been two predominant concepts concerning the relationship between Israel and the Church. Is it possible that both of these popular positions have been somewhat in error? Is there a middle ground of truth?

Site: News From Israel
Web site of David Dolan, "Broadcast Journalist, Popular Speaker, Author." A CBS radio correspondent and resident of Israel since 1980, Dolan's experience covering the Middle East is vast. See the link to Monthly News Digest on his homepage.

Site: World of the Bible Ministries
A teaching ministry whose motto is, "Bringing the world of the Bible to the world of the Church." Their new book, Fast Facts on the Middle East Conflict by ministry president and author Randall Price, provides a very user-friendly primer on all related issues, with graphs, "fast facts," and very accessible, brief text written from an evangelical viewpoint.

Other Viewpoints:

"Anti-Zionism" Perspective:
Arab Press: Christian Zionists Aren't Real Christians
Christian Zionist site synopsizes and responds to anti-Zionist comments by Fr. Atallah Hanna, official spokesman of the Orthodox Church in Jerusalem.

Pro-Palestinian Perspective:
The Middle Eastern Research and Information Project
MERIP Primer on the Uprising in Palestine

Christian Zionism Web site:
THE LAND OF ISRAEL - A Christian Zionist View
By Halvor Ronning, Board Member of the ICEJ

Dual-Covenant Christian Zionism Perspective
International Christian Embassy Jerusalem