Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Sharon a Statesman?

Editorialists over at the Times praise Ariel Sharon for overseeing the withdrawal of Israelis from settlements in Gaza. But as Pat Buchanan reminds us, "Both the tragedy and the debacle of this past week are Sharon’s doing." Pat continues:

Gaza was never part of Israel. Its 1.3 million impoverished people are Palestinian refugees from the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, or their children and grandchildren. The Gaza Strip was overrun by Israel in the Six-Day War of June 1967, but never returned to Egypt.

In recent years, Israelis have trickled into Gaza and, though never numbering even 1 percent of the population, came to occupy a third of the land. They are colonizers in every sense of the word.

Israel’s colonization of Gaza, using squatters subsidized by the state, was a violation of international law. The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits military occupiers from moving civilians onto their occupied land. And the Gaza land-grab was carried out in brazen defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions and over the protests of Israel’s great patron, the United States, which once candidly called these Israeli enclaves what they are: “illegal settlements.”

But because the U.S. government lacked the moral courage to tell the Israelis to stop building settlements and start tearing them down—even as we showered Israel with $3 billion in annual aid—the Labor and Likud parties ignored the pathetic peeps of protest from our presidents to please desist.

The rampant animosity against America in the Arab world is but one of the fruits of our outsourcing Middle East policy to Tel Aviv.

While watching coverage of the eviction of Gaza settlers, Charley Reese wondered why there was no similar sympathy for Palestinians:

No interviews with weeping mothers or fathers. No discussions of whether the evictions were right or wrong. This is obviously a deliberate policy on the part of America's television networks, for after all, they had 4,170 opportunities to report on Palestinian evictions since September 2000. That's how many homes were destroyed, and, of course, doesn't count the orchards and olive trees bulldozed by the Israeli army or Israeli settlers.

Of course, Palestinians were not evicted by sympathetic soldiers or promised huge amounts of money to relocate. No, they were brutally told to get out of their houses, which were then blown up or bulldozed into rubble by decidedly unsympathetic Israeli soldiers. What little they had was destroyed, and they were offered nothing except verbal abuse by the Israelis and invisibility by the American media.

So how should Christians respond? While a number of prominent Christian Zionists are unhappy with current happenings in the "Holy Land" and continue to quote Genesis 12:3, an interesting statement was released several years ago by Reformed theologians connected to Knox Theological Seminary. Here are just a few excerpts from the entire statement:

The inheritance promises that God gave to Abraham were made effective through Christ, Abraham's True Seed. These promises were not and cannot be made effective through sinful man's keeping of God's law. Rather, the promise of an inheritance is made to those only who have faith in Jesus, the True Heir of Abraham. All spiritual benefits are derived from Jesus, and apart from him there is no participation in the promises. Since Jesus Christ is the Mediator of the Abrahamic Covenant, all who bless him and his people will be blessed of God, and all who curse him and his people will be cursed of God. These promises do not apply to any particular ethnic group, but to the church of Jesus Christ, the true Israel. The people of God, whether the church of Israel in the wilderness in the Old Testament or the Israel of God among the Gentile Galatians in the New Testament, are one body who through Jesus will receive the promise of the heavenly city, the everlasting Zion. This heavenly inheritance has been the expectation of the people of God in all ages.

Jesus taught that his resurrection was the raising of the True Temple of Israel. He has replaced the priesthood, sacrifices, and sanctuary of Israel by fulfilling them in his own glorious priestly ministry and by offering, once and for all, his sacrifice for the world, that is, for both Jew and Gentile. Believers from all nations are now being built up through him into this Third Temple, the church that Jesus promised to build.

Simon Peter spoke of the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus in conjunction with the final judgment and the punishment of sinners. Instructively, this same Simon Peter, the Apostle to the Circumcision, says nothing about the restoration of the kingdom to Israel in the land of Palestine. Instead, as his readers contemplate the promise of Jesus' Second Coming, he fixes their hope upon the new heavens and the new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

The entitlement of any one ethnic or religious group to territory in the Middle East called the "Holy Land" cannot be supported by Scripture. In fact, the land promises specific to Israel in the Old Testament were fulfilled under Joshua. The New Testament speaks clearly and prophetically about the destruction of the second temple in A.D. 70. No New Testament writer foresees a regathering of ethnic Israel in the land, as did the prophets of the Old Testament after the destruction of the first temple in 586 B.C. Moreover, the land promises of the Old Covenant are consistently and deliberately expanded in the New Testament to show the universal dominion of Jesus, who reigns from heaven upon the throne of David, inviting all the nations through the Gospel of Grace to partake of his universal and everlasting dominion.

Bad Christian theology regarding the "Holy Land" contributed to the tragic cruelty of the Crusades in the Middle Ages. Lamentably, bad Christian theology is today attributing to secular Israel a divine mandate to conquer and hold Palestine, with the consequence that the Palestinian people are marginalized and regarded as virtual "Canaanites." This doctrine is both contrary to the teaching of the New Testament and a violation of the Gospel mandate. In addition, this theology puts those Christians who are urging the violent seizure and occupation of Palestinian land in moral jeopardy of their own bloodguiltiness. Are we as Christians not called to pray for and work for peace, warning both parties to this conflict that those who live by the sword will die by the sword? Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can bring both temporal reconciliation and the hope of an eternal and heavenly inheritance to the Israeli and the Palestinian. Only through Jesus Christ can anyone know peace on earth.



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