Debunking Misconceptions About Israel
Today’s Text: Amos 9:15
ISRAEL ED 101
The Bible is replete with God’s overarching plan and purpose for Israel. People of faith must clearly grasp the truth about God’s promises to His ancient people and be informed with historical facts.
Amos’ prophecy given some 2800 years ago alone should compel the faith community to declare support for Israel because we are privileged witnesses of the fulfillment:
“’I will plant them in their land,
And no longer shall they be pulled up
From the land I have given them,’
Says the Lord your God.”
Unfortunately, people in the pew today know less about the Bible than their parents. Bible illiteracy coupled with misconceptions distorting the truth about the Arab-Israeli conflict—that our grandparents repudiated when the nation of Israel was reborn in 1948—has encroached into the teaching of the local church.
HAS THE CHURCH DROPPED THE BALL?
Sixteen years ago I stood surrounded by people at the front of an impressive meeting hall of a large church. Many shared stories of their personal journey that resulted in love for and travel to Israel. My message had outlined the biblical and moral foundation for my staunch support for the nation of Israel and solidarity with the Jewish people wherever they choose to reside.
My wife was waiting for me when a couple of ladies approached her with questions about the ongoing hostilities surrounding conflict in the Middle East. The more articulate of the two summarized their perceptions: “They’re all family; why can’t they just learn to get along?”
Images from a recent trip to Israel of the on-going restoration following the gruesome Sbarro pizza restaurant bombing in Jerusalem were still fresh in our mind’s eye. My wife suggested that the ladies should try to project themselves and their grandchildren into that scenario. Fifteen civilians were blown apart—seven of whom were children snacking on pizza after school with family—and 130 were maimed at the hands of a suicide bomber. It wasn’t a pretty picture. The ladies were duly horrified unaware of the premeditated attack in 2001.
The ladies’ question, while valid, demonstrated common misconceptions about Israel that ignore the reality on the ground.
Not a Family Feud
The first misconception is that the term, Arab, is synonymous with the descendants of Ishmael. If that were true as many have been taught to believe, the number of Israel’s enemies would be very small indeed and limited to a people group living in the northwestern corner of modern day Saudi Arabia.
In reality, Israel’s enemies encompass a much broader demographic including countries with people groups that are not biologically related such as the Egyptians, Lebanese, Syrians, Iraqis, Iranians, Moroccans, Libyans and the Turkish people.
Egyptians are not Arabs, but they are predominantly Muslim. The Lebanese and Syrians are not Arabs, but they are heavily influenced by Islam. Iraq and Iran are radical Islamic states that encompass the area once known as Persia, not Arabia. Morocco, Libya, and Sudan are African nations, but they have Muslim majorities or radical Muslim governments.
The key to understanding the conflict in the Middle East necessitates comprehending that it is not a family quarrel, but rather a conflict of ideologies.
Not a Land Grab
A second misconception incorrectly concludes that the “Palestinians” had their land stolen from them by the Israelis.
It is important to note that the origin of the modern day “Palestinian Arab” can be traced only as far back as the end of the 1800s. (1)
At that time, wealthy Turkish landowners had expansive farms on the fertile coastal plain and recruited laborers from the surrounding countries. Harsh economic conditions forced people to leave neighbouring lands in search of work. A growing economy and availability of jobs brought large numbers of migrant workers to the area. People who chose to remain became the progenitors of those calling themselves Palestinian today.
History documents that these migrants came from a diversity of ethnic and religious backgrounds:
“Balkans, Greeks, Syrians, Latins, Egyptians, Turks, Armenians, Italians, Persians, Kurds, Germans, Afghans, Druzes, Circasians, Bosnians, Sudanese, Samaritans, Algerians, Motawila, Tartars, Hungarians, Scots, Navarese, Bretons, English, Franks, Ruthenians, Bohemians, Bulgarians, Georgians, Persians, Nestorians, Indians, Copts, Maronites and many others” (2)
Benjamin Netanyahu recounts, that the majority claiming to be Palestinians, “came to the West Bank just prior to the Six Day War”—a far cry from the erroneous claim of five millennia of history and presence in the land. (3)
Incredibly, the UN definition of a Palestinian is anyone whose, “residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948.” (4)
According to a Palestinian Arab,
“The fact is that today’s Palestinians are immigrants from the surrounding nations! I grew up well knowing the history and origins of today’s Palestinians as being from Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Christians from Greece, Muslim Sherkas from Russia, Muslims from Bosnia, and the Jordanians next door.” (5)
The Bible distinguishes Arabs as distinct from the Philistines whose last mention in history is around 600 B.C. when they were taken captive by the Babylonians and subsequently assimilated into Babylonian culture (2 Chron. 26:7 cf. Ezek. 25:15-17).
The Jebusites and their culture disappeared from the land and history some 3,000 years ago. Since the last vestiges of Canaanite culture date to around 149 B.C., it is not physically possible that the Palestinians are descendants of Muslim invaders who supposedly intermarried with a Canaanite remnant still living in the land; they were some 800 years too late.
History simply does not corroborate the claim that those calling themselves Palestinians today are descendants of the Canaanites, Jebusites and Philistines as revisionist historians purport.
Never been a Palestinian state
Former Syrian President Hafez Assad could not have said it any more factually when he told the late Yasser Arafat in 1967,
“Never forget this one point: There is no such thing as a Palestinian people, there is no Palestinian entity, Palestine is an integral part of Syria” (6)
Gaza, Judea and Samaria were illegally annexed and controlled by Egypt and Jordon for 17 years. Yet, during that time there was no attempt to establish a Palestinian state in either region.
The area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River never was a Palestinian state—much less a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
“King David made Jerusalem the capital of his kingdom and the religious center of the Jewish people in 1003 BC. Some forty years later, his son Solomon built the Temple (the religious and national center of the people of Israel for over 3,000 years) and transformed the city of Jerusalem into the prosperous capital of an empire extending from the Euphrates to Egypt.” (7)
When Jewish people make aliyah to the modern State of Israel, they are not returning to land belonging to any other people group. They return to a minuscule fraction of their ancient homeland given to them by God that has been carved-up by the nations of the world (Gen. 15:18-21; Joel 3:1-2).
ADVOCATE FOR ISRAEL BASED ON TRUTH
People of faith must be serious about getting the historical facts right and communicating biblical truth. People of faith should not be party to disseminating false information about Israel. This is not an easy task in light of growing Bible illiteracy and the inability to discern fake news in the faith community.
You can, however, begin by determining to daily inform yourself about the harsh realities that the Israeli people face every day—there are credible sources for accurate news. (Email me for a list of reputable news resources.)
More importantly, read and study God’s Word to equip yourself with a biblical foundation that forms the basis for support for Israel.
Without a God’s-eye view of Israel, perceptions can be easily skewed. Prayerfully ask God to use you to debunk common misconceptions about the Palestinian conflict with Israel. You may often feel as if you are standing alone in solidarity with God’s Chosen People; but be assured, God is standing there with you (Gen.12:3; Zech. 2:8).
Charles E. McCracken is an international Bible teacher, long-time friend of Israel and advocate for the Jewish people. Rev. McCracken authentically communicates biblical truth making his presentations relevant for those seeking to understand the significance of Israel and the church in Bible prophecy. He staunchly supports the nation of Israel and the Jewish people’s right to exist and live in peace.
© Charles E. McCracken 2016, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author via Contact Form under ABOUT. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (Emphasis added.)
1) Howard Grief, “History of Israel: What is Palestine and Palestinians?”, Israel Science and Technology.
2) Randall Price, Fast Facts on the Middle East Conflict (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2003), 62.
4) Palestine Refugees, UNRWA united nations relief and works agency for Palestine refugees in the near east.
5) Walid Shoebat, “On The Restoration of Israel: The Jews and Arabs”.
6) Daniel Pipes, “Palestine for the Syrians?”, Middle East Forum Commentary, December 1986.
7) 40th Anniversary of the Reunification of Jerusalem, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, May 16, 2007.
1) Sunrise on Masada. By The Israel Project [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons – MKM Portfolios