The Palestinian Threat to Israel

Prof. Johan Malan, Middelburg, South Africa

There are different areas in which Israelís survival is threatened by the Palestinians. The following are some of the most important ones:

1. Israelís territorial integrity is threatened by the two-state solution: The big international support for two independent states of Israel and Palestine next to each other is based upon the condition that Israel relinquishes important parts of its territory that were undisputedly recaptured in the 1967 war. Historically, and also in terms of a clear biblical mandate, these territories belonged to Israel since Old Testament times. But Israel is now pressurised by the whole world to transfer land to the Palestinians from core areas of Judea and Samaria. These include, among others, the occupied West Bank which stretches from East Jerusalem north-easterly to the River Jordan. The Palestinians strongly demand control over East Jerusalem as they intend declaring it as their capital. This part of the city includes the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives which are of great historic and religious significance to Israel. The throne of David must be restored in the old part of Jerusalem when the Messiah comes. It is very important that, with a view to their further restoration, the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem should not be divided but remain under Jewish control. Since the integrity of biblical promises are also involved, Christians who seriously consider the Lordís promises may not compromise by expecting Israel to cede rights over their territory in order to allow another, hostile state to be established there.

The present prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanjahu, is more conservative than his predecessors and thus far refuses to divide Jerusalem and relocate Jewish settlers from the West Bank area. We should pray for him to stand firm and refrain from handing over important parts of Israelís God-given land to the Palestinians. Netanjahu is nevertheless prepared to recognise a Palestinian state which is demilitarised and fully recognises Israel. But he refuses to withdraw from all the territories which were captured during the 1967 war.

The fact that Israel will, in one or other way, be divided among the Jews and Palestinians is a serious infringement of the divine mandate that Israel holds over the entire country. The Lord will judge all the nations that persecuted Israel and forced them to divide their land: ďFor behold, in those days and at that time when I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will enter into judgement with them there on account of my people, my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; they have also divided up my landĒ (Joel 3:1-2). This judgement will be executed at the battle of Armageddon, and we can expect that the situation in the Middle East will greatly deteriorate before then. That means that Israelís territorial integrity will be further threatened.

2. Palestinians are planning to crowd Israel out demographically. There are at present 7.2 million people in Israel, of which 5.4 million are Jews, 1.5 million are Arabs and the rest of other nationalities. In the West Bank area are another 2.8 million Arabs and in Gaza 1.4 million. That means that in Israel and the Palestinian areas jointly are 5.4 million Jews and 5.7 million Palestinians. Apart from these figures there are 4.5 million so-called Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon who wish to return to Palestinian areas in Israel. If they do, Israel will demographically be completely crowded out by the Palestinians, who will simply take over the country. For obvious reasons the Jewish government refuses the return of these people.

The Palestinians are an artificially created people. After the restoration of Israel in 1948, Yasser Arafat, a former leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), invited many Arabs from Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan to settle in Palestine and fight against the young Jewish state. Arafat himself was an Egyptian. The great majority of Palestinians are, therefore, immigrants from neighbouring Arab countries who illegally occupied land that belonged to Israel since Old Testament times. During Israelís Diaspora the past almost 2000 years there were only small groups of Arabs who roamed around in Israel, led a precarious existence and never really built up anything. The present large numbers only immigrated after Israelís restoration, but many of them fled to refugee camps, particularly in Jordan, when they were involved in wars against Israel. Should all these refugees return to Israel, they will be like a Trojan horse which will threaten Israel from the inside and overpower the country with their vast numbers.

3. Israel is threatened by a militant Palestinian government and terrorist groups: Israel doesnít have ordinary neighbours with whom they can conclude agreements and live together in peace. The Palestinian government was initially formed by the PLOís Fattah Party under the leadership of Yasser Arafat. From an ideological as well as a religious point of view they strongly opposed Israel, and preferred confrontation above negotiations. It was only after several defeats, as well as the death of Arafat, that the more moderate Mahmoud Abbas gained control over Fattah and was prepared to recognise Israel under certain conditions.

The majority of Palestinians, particularly the more militant youth, reject this moderate approach and in large numbers joined the Hamas terrorist group which is mainly confined to Gaza. ďHamasĒ is an acronym for ďIslamic Resistance MovementĒ and their great aim is to liberate by force from Jewish control all Palestinian areas, which according to them includes the whole of Israel. In 2006 Hamas gained a victory against Fattah during an election, and subsequently their military officers had to learn how to govern a country. They tried to form a coalition with Fattah but it led to bloody confrontations and the ousting of Fattah officials from Gaza. In a coup in 2007 Hamas took full control of the government in Gaza, after which they started smuggling in thousands of rockets for a war of annihilation against Israel. Syria and Iran give financial and military support to them. They also enjoy the support of other terrorist movements such as Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad. Hamas gradually increased their attacks against Israel, and during the last few months before the Israeli invasion of Gaza they fired up to 600 rockets per week on Jewish targets in the south of Israel.

The threat of Hamas is increasing rather than decreasing. They still refuse to recognise Israel as an independent state. They also refuse to comply with Israelís demand to form a demilitarised state which occupies itself with civil governance rather than preparing for another war. The Palestinians, together with their equally radical allies in Syria, Lebanon, and Iran, continue to threaten Israel by planning to obliterate the Jewish state. There is no basis for Jewish collaboration with them.

4. Israel is threatened by the Palestinianís religion: The Islamic faith itself poses a very serious threat to Israel since Islam regards both Zionism and Christianity as its enemies. The Koran commands the waging of a holy war (jihad) against infidels, as it is a recognised method to enforce Allahís authority upon all people on earth by means of Islamic warriors. They have a very deep religious and ideological motivation to fight the Jews and reconstitute the entire Israel into a Palestinian state. Muslims are even induced by the Koran to lay down their own lives in this holy war in exchange for great blessings in the afterlife. It is regarded as the highest form of self-sacrifice to die as a martyr for Allah. Everyone who is prepared to die in a suicide bomb attack is highly praised. The Koran promises rewards to every martyr in Paradise.

5. Israel also faces a religious threat by Christian Palestinianism. There is another big threat to Israel, known as Christian Palestinianism. That is a Christian movement which expresses itself against Israel and in favour of the Palestinians. This liberal theological dogma is in opposition to Christian Zionism, which is focussed on emphasising Israelís biblical rights and also actively supports the full restoration of Israel in an undivided land. Christian Palestinianism propagates an amillennial and anti-Jewish theology in which the restored Israel plays no part, and in which the Palestinians are regarded as the legitimate owners of the entire Palestine without any state of Israel in the Middle East. It is, therefore, a kind of liberation theology for the Palestinians. Many of the Palestinian Christians have accepted this politically-motivated liberation theology and exercise it for the sake of their national survival. It is strongly anti-dispensational. Many of the Palestinian Christians do not even read the Old Testament because of the central role which Israel occupied during the dispensation of the law. Some of them do read it, but only selectively. They do not recognise any relationship between biblical Israel, the present Jews and the modern state of Israel at all.

Theological Palestinianism poses a very big danger. An Egyptian scholar, Bat Ye-or, has a chapter in her book Eurabia about the Islamisation of Christianity. According to her, Palestinianism paves the way for the Islamisation of the church. It is a kind of replacement theology in which Israel is replaced by the Palestinians. In the process the four Gospels are disengaged from their Jewish connection and attached to the Palestinians to make the New Testament more acceptable to Islam. In the process Jesus is rendered a Palestinian Saviour.

A British Jew, Melanie Phillips, has published a book entitled Londonistan in which she warns England that Islam is taking over their country and culture, mainly because the church has become pro-Islamic and against historic Christianity. She describes the rise of Christian Palestinianism as follows: ďWhen Arab Christians reinterpreted Scripture in order to delegitimise the Jewsí claim to the land of Israel, this kick-started replacement theology, which roared back into the imaginations, sermons and thinking of the Anglican Church. This revisionism held that Palestinian Arabs were the original possessors of the land of IsraelÖ. and that they are the true Israel.Ē

In this new form of replacement theology Israel is not only replaced with the church, but specifically also with the Palestinian Christians. In the process the Bible is robbed of many of its basic statements on Israel and gradually reinterpreted in terms of the Koran. Donald Wagner (Dying in the Land of Promise: Palestine and Palestinian Christianity from Pentecost to 2000; London, 2003) wrongly argues that about half of the population in Israel at the time of Christ was not Jewish, thereby justifying his claim that Arab Christians are racially descended from the original church in Acts 2 in Jerusalem. However, the church Father Eusebius confirms in his book on church history that the early church was virtually 100% Jewish.

Hank Hanegraaff of the Christian Research Institute also rejected dispensationalism and the restoration of Israel, and now advances Palestinianism. He accuses Israel of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and describes supporters of Israel as racists. However, it is obvious that the Bible teaches the physical and spiritual restoration of Israel in their own land. People who object to this teaching are opening the door to replacement theology and the increased acceptance of Islamic points of view. (Information in this section has been derived from the article Christian Palestinianism by Thomas Ice).

Churches in South Africa will also have to decide whether they literally believe the Bible. If so, they are committed to accepting Israel as a people in their own right, to whom alone the promise was made that they would forever occupy the land of Israel. Their unbelief was indeed the cause of the Diaspora, but the Lord now brings them back to spiritually revive them and make them a blessing to the whole world (Rom. 11:1-32).

Israelís future is not in the hands of orthodox Jews who are still rejecting the Messiah, but in the hands of Messianic Jews who have accepted Jesus as Messiah and are serving Him. Although they are a small minority group the Bible prophesies great and wonderful things for them. We should support them so that their testimony to unsaved Israeliís would go out clearly and unambiguously. According to the Bible the whole remnant in Israel will eventually accept Jesus as Messiah. Do not associate with the enemies of Israel as, according to Genesis 12:3, the judgements of God rest upon such people.

We have mentioned to you five fronts among Palestinian communities and their supporters from where attacks are launched against Israel, accompanied by a stream of negative propaganda to portray the Jews as evildoers. These strategies are firstly the incessant attacks on Israelís territorial integrity by which their survival in the land is threatened; secondly the planned immigration of Palestinian refugees from neighbouring Arab countries in order to establish a large majority against Israel; thirdly the continuous efforts by the Palestinian authority and terrorist groups to wage a war of annihilation against Israel; fourthly the holy war to which the Koran calls all Muslims against Israel, while also inducing them to commit suicide attacks against the enemies of Allah; and fifthly the rejection of Israelís end-time restoration by the supporters of an anti-Israeli type of replacement theology in which Israelís position and rights are transferred to the Palestinian people, thus openly compromising with Islam. As far as evangelical Christians are concerned, the enemies and critics of Israel are also our enemies and critics, and for that reason we cannot in any way associate with them by condoning their unbiblical views and objectives. They should be called to repentance.

If we read and interpret the Bible in terms of its literal face value we will completely reject replacement theology in which other peoples or groups are substitutes for Israel. Rightly dividing the word of truth will help us entertain the correct theological and prophetic perspective in which we will be free to give full, biblical recognition to the restoration of Israel. It will also make us spiritual and material allies in the process of Israelís restoration, while committing us to intercede for the body of the Messiah in Israel with perseverance. We will then realise that this group of true believers who made a small beginning in the face of severe prejudice against them carry in themselves the promise of a new spiritual beginning in the Messiah for the entire Israel. Their existence is the first instalment in the fulfilment of many promises on a new dispensation for the whole world in which the saved Israel will, to the advantage of all, make the light of the Messiah shine brightly. Are you blessing Israel and supporting the Messianic movement in Israel? In terms of Romans 11:11-12 this is the best way of provoking orthodox Jews to jealousy on the rich spiritual blessings of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob through the Messiah. It can also make you a blessed collaborator in the restoration of Israel.