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Christianity and Islam: What American Christians need to know about Muslims

A US embassy in Jerusalem: Bad News for Israel

I’ve posted about this generally before, but this week I want to explain why, from a Christian point of view, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel (by moving the embassy to Jerusalem) is bad news for Israel.

Of course there are many pieces to the Middle East puzzle.  But the embassy issue is pretty clear.

To start, we need to recognize what makes Israel special. American politicians and press like to stress the fact that Israel is the only democracy in the region. We like democracies, so it makes sense to help Israel out.

Many Christians are less familiar with the more unique aspect of Israel’s existence. The UN in 1947 did not create Israel to be a religious country, or to fulfill biblical prophecy.  Instead, it was constituted to be a “safe haven” for Jewish people.  Any Jewish person can immigrate to Israel at any time, no questions asked.

Israel is the only country in the world which automatically permits entry based solely on race.  Britain and the US endorsed this idea because anti-Semitism is real, and it is not going away any time soon. Yes, Jewish people are safe in many parts of the world today. But given the experience of the Holocaust, in which most of the world (including the USA) refused to accept Jews who were fleeing Nazi Germany, Jewish people can never be certain that a new tide of anti-Semitism will not spring up. So the world is better off with a country that always promises safety to Jewish people.

A problem Israel faces today, however, is that many of its residents are not Jewish.  In July 2017, the CIA’s estimate of the population of the State of Israel, excluding the West Bank and Gaza, was about 8.3 million people, including 6.2 million Jewish people and 1.8 million Muslims (almost all Palestinian).

The population of the West Bank was 2.7 million, of which 2.1 million were Muslim and 600,000 were Jewish.  The population of the Gaza strip was 1.8 million, almost entirely Muslim.

If Israel were to formally include the West Bank and Gaza, the totals come to 6.8 million Jewish people and 6.7 Muslims – almost 50-50.  Even more problematic, West Bank residents have 26.1 births per thousand adults, per year; Gaza Strip residents, 31.4; Israel, 18.1.  Very shortly there will be more Palestinian Muslims than Jews in Greater Israel.

This means that if the West Bank and Gaza officially become part of Israel, Jewish people will be in the minority, forcing Israel to make a very uncomfortable choice.  A Muslim majority in a democracy will not accept the idea that only Jewish people can immigrate to Israel at any time. The only way then that Israel might keep its unique place as a refuge for Jewish people would be to cease functioning as a democracy.  Instead, it would become a country in which a minority rules over a majority.

Christians should work to make sure that Israel is not put in this position. Jewish people need to be able to flee to Israel to escape anti-Semitism, but we also need Israel to exist as a democracy in which Jews and Arabs have equal voting rights. We need to show that we’ve learned lessons from our own Civil Rights era, and from the apartheid of South Africa.

For the past 20 years, the United States and the UN have been working on the “Two State” solution, by which Israel and Palestine (the West Bank and Gaza) would become separate nations. The borders of the two countries would approximate the borders between Israel and the West bank prior to 1967. Arab world nations (including Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and so on) have signed off on this idea, promising to make peace treaties and establish diplomatic relations with Israel once the two states are formed. While this proposal has run into all sorts of problems, I don’t know of any other solution which keeps Israel democratic while preserving its ability to accept all Jewish immigrants, no questions asked. The Trump administration certainly has not proposed anything. So the two-state solution still seems to be the best bet.

One of the stumbling blocks has been the status of East Jerusalem, which sits on the border of Israel and the West Bank. East Jerusalem was on the Palestinian side of Israel prior to 1967, so, everything else being equal, it would seem to revert to Palestine; in fact, except for the era of the Crusades, Muslims have controlled East Jerusalem continuously since 637 A.D! The population of East Jerusalem is mostly Arab, and East Jerusalem also contains the “Old City” and its historic sites (the Temple mount, the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Mount of Olives, etc.) Two Islamic sites on the Temple Mount – the Dome of the Rock, and the al-Iqsa Mosque – make Jerusalem the third-holiest city for Muslims. All of these facts explain why Palestinians are just as attached to Jerusalem as are Israelis.

Obviously, since East Jerusalem is precious to both Jews and Muslims, a solution that satisfies everyone is unlikely. This is why Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama resisted moving the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem: endorsing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, without negotiation with or compensation to the Palestinians, makes it harder for the Palestinians to accept the two-state solution. If peace is the goal, then we’ve just made that goal harder to attain.

If Israel had been formed as a religious state, we could argue that Jerusalem belongs to Israel.  But modern Israel is secular: most government members are not religious, and it has never had a religious Prime Minister. Yes, Israelis feel attached to Jerusalem, but Palestinians do, too.

Psalm 122:6-7 says,

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
‘May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.’”

There is nothing in these verses about Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Instead, there is a blessing for everyone who loves Jerusalem. Today, those who love Jerusalem include Jews, Christians, and Palestinians.

I hope that Christians today will acknowledge that Palestinians love Jerusalem just as must as Israelis do.  If we can, we will be that much closer to fulfilling our calling as God’s peacemakers.

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3 comments on “A US embassy in Jerusalem: Bad News for Israel

  1. seelistenunderstand
    December 24, 2017

    There is no such a thing called “Palestinians”. please read next:

    . I, for a long time, write that what is called “Palestinians” is actually NP (None Palestinians). The 17 years old girl that attacked the 2 Israeli soldiers, in her staged trial, that totally failed, to provoke the Israelis, made for me the work to justify my theory. The Palestinians use the people’s opinion to gain points. The way is by using the cameras. They sent a young girl to bother Israeli soldiers in order to make the soldiers hitting the girls that will be a photo, edited to their necessities and will be published in the world in order to show how the Israelis behave to the NP. One of the girls was a very experienced provocateur. Her name was Ahed. She is blond, blue eyes, light skin, dressed Jeans and shirt, not wearing any Muslim typical dress or sign. In general, she was looking like any other girl in the West, not like a Muslim. According to her look she might be a typical genuine Philistine. The Muslims, on the other hand, are dark skinned, typical kind of very thick hair, no blue eyes, completely different from Ahed. All these differences, and more that I didn’t mention as these are enough to confirm my theory/opinion that the Israeli/West Bank/what I call NP Arabs are not Palestinians. We remember that Arafat started to call his people “Palestinians” as he realized that nobody recognizes/pays attention to him and to his people and to their existence. Arafat thought that the name “Palestinians” will draw more attention to them and will give them more respect as an ancient people. But no. They are not what they pretend to. They are a collection of Arabs from different places from the Middle East and the Arab peninsula, not necessarily Israel /Canaan. Ahed is most probably a result/ decadent of a onetime episode between somebody who was European, may be even genuine Philistine, and the other sex from the Muslim sector. The Blond, blue eyes and the skin of Ahed is in complete contradiction to the Arabs. Like there is not a single swallow announcing the coming of spring so one blond girl, European look, does not mean all Arabs are genuine Philistines.

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    • John Herbst
      December 24, 2017

      There are a large number of Arabs who have lived for hundreds of years in the region that we now call “Israel” and/or “Palestine.” We need a way to identify these people. If you don’t like the term “Palestinian,” I’m open to other ideas. But “NP” doesn’t do anything to describe these people.

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      • seelistenunderstand
        December 26, 2017

        Shalom John
        Sorry, But I can’t agree with you. To describe/explain the NP is a whole project. They, definitely, are none Palestinians. I explained it a couple of times in my posts. I feel that the most accurate description is the one that I gave as it expresses the truth. They are a collection of tribes from many places. Please remember that a substantial % of them, actually all of them, were shepherds that traveled all their lives, generations, to look for food and water to their animals. They settled in places that looked to them the best. We have, here in Israel the Bedouins. In Europe the Gipsies. In Africa, Asia, Aussie Etc, and the Jews till they entered Israel they traveled for 40 years in the deserts, till they were given the land of Canaan to Abraham. Since then, in spite of the raids the Jews were settling in Canaan-Israel. this is very well documented in many history books, not today’s one. Under Every stone that you move in Israel you find evidence of Israeli/Jews lives. In contrary to the Muslims that you find any sign of their lives. So, the only conclusion is that they don’t belong to this part of the world, therefore, they are not Palestinians. So, NP describes them very accurately.
        I hope that I answered your question/ hesitation and please ask/write more if you have more.
        In friendship
        Amir

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This entry was posted on December 24, 2017 by .
The Text in Context

Helping modern readers engage with ancient biblical texts

Mark Biddle

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