How do I know such things? Because the Almighty wrote a book about it.
Although, as I’ve said before, I usually try not to emphasize the “religious” aspects of the conflicts in the Middle East, sometimes I just feel that the eternal viewpoint is what needs to be expressed at the moment. I’ll still try in this post not to cite book, chapter and verse, so as to keep my tone a little more like what it has been; write to me if you want details.
I put “religious” in quotation marks because it really isn’t about religion; it’s about what God has done, is currently doing, and—as far as we can tell from the book He wrote—is going to do. And I do this also because (the way I read it), God is all about relationship, not religion. The animosity of the Arabs toward Israel is not really a religious issue (let alone a land issue, as some would have us think) but an issue of relationship.
The Jews as a nation (and Israel, like it or not, is a Jewish state) descend from Abraham son of Terah through his son Isaac and through his grandson Jacob. The Arabs in general, correctly or not, trace their descent from Abraham through Isaac’s older brother Ishmael. And therein lies the problem, at least through human eyes.
There’s a custom in many societies (European included) to reckon a rightful inheritance though a firstborn son, and then only secondarily, if at all, though younger siblings, particularly male siblings. And Ishmael, not Isaac, was Abraham’s firstborn son, so according to this custom he was the rightful heir of his father.
However, God (being God) chose to supersede this principle and pass the inheritance to the younger son. Houston, we have a problem. To make matters worse (again, from a human perspective), Abraham then tossed the firstborn son out of the house. So the firstborn son not only had his (perceived) rightful inheritance yanked from his grasp, but he became rejected, and fatherless. It’s not that Abraham didn’t love Ishmael–he truly did, and was grieved to let him go–it was just that God had other plans in mind, told Abraham about them, and… what’s poor Abe to do? When God (and He is God) tells you to do something, you’d better do it.
Now, can we expect Ishmael to understand all this, or any of it? Did anyone ask him how he felt about it? Not that we can tell from the aforementioned book.
I may be making this sound like God is being very unfair, but that’s not by intention. Actually, I don’t see anywhere in the book where God characterizes Himself as fair by our standards. He does characterize Himself as just, and whether you see the difference or not, you have to simply acknowledge that it’s His standard that counts in the end.
But from a natural perspective Ishmael has every reason to feel as resentful as all get-out.
Fatherlessness, as many sociologists will tell you, is one of the biggest problems we have today in Western societies, and I’m told by others that it’s seen in Middle Eastern societies as an even bigger issue than it is here. And I’m told that in Middle Eastern cultures (please correct me, anyone, if this isn’t so), that what happened to my father, or forefather, however many generations back, happened to me.
What all this boils down to is that if I’m an Arab, I may think I have every right and reason to be resentful, even homicidally so, against any and all Jews. From a human perspective, anyway. And for that matter, resentful against God Almighty, since it was all His doing in the first place.
Seeing it from this angle, it makes sense that every modern war fought by Israel has been in self defense against Arab aggression. And it goes a long way toward explaining why Israeli defense and security forces go far beyond customary standards in treating their enemies with what actually appears to be favor, or at least sympathy. Who else would do, or has done, such a thing?! And I think we all—even the Arabs–know that Israel has not “stolen” any Arab lands. Even the adopted title “Palestinian” tacitly acknowledges that the Jews were the occupants of the region thousands of years ago.
But it’s not about land, or even recent history. It’s about a relationship issue that has never been resolved by human standards, and cannot be resolved by military or political means. There is a solution which has been offered on a spiritual plane, but that’s a whole ‘nother subject.
In a little over a month, the Arabs are expected to submit a plan to the assembled nations of the world asking them to acknowledge that yes they are entitled to a piece of land in the middle of the State of Israel from which to launch further and more effective aggression against the descendants of the man who they figure stole the birthright of their forefather. I don’t think the assembled nations of the world as a whole have a clue as to what’s really going on. And that goes also for the current administration of Israel’s one remaining ally having veto rights against such a decision. So I don’t know how it will go. Maybe Abu Mazen or whoever makes the presentation will get up there and just speak gibberish? Whatever he says, you can be sure it won’t have anything to do with the real problem.
But God—being God—will ultimately have His way. If we’re smart, we’ll read that book He wrote, with an open and sincere heart, and find out just what that way is, and get on board with it.
Can I hear a “God help us,” anyone?