Your Brain: The Final Frontier

Discovering the obvious and beating it like a dead horse.

Israel & Palestine – Some Perspective

Some people have likely already forgotten that a terrorist group named Hamas attacked thousands of Israeli citizens on Saturday, October 7, 2023. Hopefully you have not forgotten it. The brutality and viciousness of the attacks were nothing short of demonic. According to reliable sources, over 1,300 Israelis were killed, many in brutal and inhuman ways, and approximately 200 more were kidnapped that day, most of whom were civilians who were simply going about their daily routines, which for many included Shabbat and finishing the Jewish holiday season they call “the time of our joy”. It is a holiday season which is in a sense like Christmas for Christians. It was also fifty years and one day after the surprise attack of Yom Kippur by Egypt and Syria. The Yom Kippur war (launched by Syria and Egypt) lasted three weeks, and Israel emerged with even more land than it had held prior to the attack.

It is unfortunate that terrorism is often the first thought which pops into your mind when you hear the words “Middle East”. However, most people who live within the borders of Israel (including the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) are not violent. Most only want peace and order. Therefore, it is important to remember that just because these most recent attacks originated in Palestinian held territory and were perpetrated by Palestinians, there are a lot of Palestinians in Gaza, who are innocent victims themselves. This is because Hamas is in power in Gaza, and they use Palestinian civilians as human shields and propaganda. In other words, the entire population of Gaza is held hostage by terrorists.

It is also important to recognize that not all of the violence in the Middle East is perpetrated by Muslims. There have been violent attacks and murders by radicals who claim the Jewish faith and the Christian faith as well. Some violence is from people who are or were secular-minded, meaning they were not committing the act due to a religious belief, but simply due to a political or national sentiment. All that being said, most of the terrorism, such as that of October 7th, has been perpetrated by radical Islamic terrorists, so that is reason for the focus of this article.

How should we react to the violence and unrest in the Middle East, as well as the possibility that WWIII could start there? First, we could all use a refresher on the history of Israel. The first place to start is with the Bible, since the Old Testament tells a fascinating story of the beginning and struggles of Israel in the Promised Land. We should also read a little about the Crusades. Keep in mind that the history of the crusades has been selectively edited in many cases. Therefore, I do not recommend just any source. Stick with books such as The Glory of the Crusades by Steve Weidenkopf and Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore.

Am I an expert on the Middle East? No. There are many people who know much more about this than I do. I have read and listened to many of these people, including people from both sides of the conflict. In doing so, I have taken into consideration that this is politicized extremely heavily on both sides. I doubt there is any topic or region in the world where reality is twisted nearly as severely by political agendas as is the conflict between the Arab nations and Israel. Therefore, I have relied most heavily on verifiable information, such as historically provable dates and accounts, and I have avoided placing significant reliance on some of the claims which although potentially accurate, are the most likely to have been modified or outright fabricated to make one side look evil and the other side look pure. I am also continuing to read and pay attention to additional sources in order to understand things better. All that said, I’m sure I have made mistakes that would open me up to justifiable criticism from experts in this field of study. As unfortunate as that is, we can’t just leave this up to the experts. In reality, the experts have failed to solve this problem since Islam decided that the Jewish people were their arch enemy, and the failures have only multiplied in the last century and exponentially so in the last fifty years.

Scripture and history both show that the region we call the Holy Land (Israel, Jordan, or Palestine), was populated by many Jewish people from before the battle of Jericho until the first century (1-99 A.D.). First there was Abraham who settled in the largely unpopulated Promised Land, then the slavery in Egypt, followed by Joshua’s return to the Promised Land with the Battle of Jericho and subsequent battles. Some historians believe this was a period of about 10,000 years. After David and Solomon the Nation of Israel weakened and Persia and Babylon invaded, ransacking, pillaging, slaughtering and taking captives before leading most of the Jewish people into exile as slaves once again. Even so, for the most part, the Jewish people remained in or near what we now know as the Holy Land or at least the Middle East, and whenever it was possible, the Jewish people returned to Jerusalem and the general area of today’s Israel.

By the way, It is helpful to think of Palestine much in the same way we think of regions more familiar to us Americans, such as the “Midwest”, “Deep South” or “Northwest”. Palestine has not been a sovereign nation any more than the West Coast of the U.S. has ever been its own sovereign nation (as much as many now wish it were). There is no unique language or culture to Palestine. Just as any Nebraskan can call themselves a “Midwesterner”, a non-Jewish resident of Nazareth can call themselves a Palestinian. However, they don’t speak Palestinian any more than I speak Nebraskan. Someone who moves to Nebraska from another distinct part of the world may not choose to identify as a Midwesterner, and may retain their original identity in spite of the fact that they now reside in the Midwest. For instance, my great great grandparents likely identified as Irish even though they had immigrated to Nebraska in the 1800’s. Likewise, a Syrian resident of Northern Israel, such as a Druze, may continue to identify as Syrian instead of an Israeli, even though they now live in Israel, but another Syrian who lives in Israel may identify as a Palestinian. Such a person does so typically for political reasons, not due to their national origin, race, or family tree. While the recognition of a region known as Palestine is not new, the idea that a group of people are “Palestinian” is quite new, and primarily means that the person is opposed to the existence of Israel and the presence of Jewish people in the Middle East.

In 70 A.D. the Roman Empire destroyed the Temple, slaughtered the remaining Jews in Jerusalem, and began expelling Jews from the entire region. In an effort to eliminate all remembrance of the Jews, the Romans renamed the area Palestine which is a “Romanized” word for Philistine, the original arch enemy of Israel. Hopefully you recall the story of David and Goliath? Goliath was a Philistine and the Philistines lived in Philistia, which included most of what we now as the Gaza Strip today. However, the Philistines did not inhabit much more than that area, so to name the entire region as Philistia or Palestinian, is not historically accurate. As we know from the Bible, there were other tribes such as the Canaanites, Moabites, Amorites, Girgashites, Hittites, Hivites, Jebusites, the Perizzites, and many more. Does this mean that the ancient Israelites under Joshua, Saul, and David were colonizers who engaged in ethnic cleansing? To say this is an unreasonable application of today’s perspective on events from thousands of years ago. It also ignores the fact that all these tribes and nations likely gained a foothold in their land in the very same way the ancient Israelites did – through force.

The exile of the Jewish people continued for decades after 70 A.D., to the point where very few Jewish people remained in or near Jerusalem by the middle of the second century, but many were dispersed elsewhere, such as Galilee. This remained the case for centuries to follow.

In the late 1800’s, a man named Theodor Herzl began advocating for the Jewish return to their homeland, which meant Jerusalem and surrounding Biblical lands. Within a few decades, a significant percentage of Galileans and residents of Jerusalem were Jewish. This vast emigration alarmed the Arab population because they had come to view the area as their own. By the way, “Arab” has a specific definition such as this one from the Encyclopedia Britannica:
Arab, one whose native language is Arabic. (See also Arabic language.) Before the spread of Islam and, with it, the Arabic language, Arab referred to any of the largely nomadic Semitic inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula. In modern usage, it embraces any of the Arabic-speaking peoples living in the vast region from Mauritania, on the Atlantic coast of Africa, to southwestern Iran, including the entire Maghrib of North Africa, Egypt and Sudan, the Arabian Peninsula, and Syria and Iraq.

During WWI, the British drove the Ottomans (think: Turkey, the nation, not the bird), out of what we now know as modern-day Israel and Syria, and took over the “administration” of much of the area. This is the fabled time of “Lawrence of Arabia” in the Seven Pillars Of Wisdom or the famous movie starring Peter O’Toole. Basically, the Ottomans had allied with Germany in WWI for political and economic reasons, then again in WWII due to their common desire to eliminate the Jewish people from their lands as well as their hostility toward Russia. As you know, they lost both times.

After their surrender in WWI, the Ottoman Empire, had formally granted the region known as Palestine, to the League of Nations as part of their surrender. The League of Nations consisted of the Allies who had won WWI. It was the precursor of the United Nations. In 1922, the League of Nations granted administrative control of Palestine to Great Britain with the goal of creating a national home for the Jewish people. This goal was known first as the “Balfour Declaration” and later as “The British Mandate”.

The British granted over 65% of the territory to the Arabs which created Jordan. The remaining portion of land was to become the national home for the Jewish people. The State of Israel was founded on May 14, 1948.

It is important to remember that prior between the time at which Alexander the Great conquered the Persians (330 B.C.) and May 14, 1948, the area now known as Israel, had not been a sovereign nation at any point. It had always been under the control of other nations and largely consisted of tribes and occupying forces. The people making all the governing decisions for Palestine actually lived in places such as Athens, Rome, Constantinople (later renamed Istanbul), and London.

Within less than 12 hours of becoming a nation on May 14, 1948, the Arab-Israeli War started. The Arab League (Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Transjordan (now Jordan), Saudi Arabia, and Yemen) immediately invaded Israel and advanced on Jerusalem in an effort to secure the capital for the Arab States. When a truce was reached, Egypt occupied Gaza in the South and Jordan occupied Judea and Samaria, (which it renamed the West Bank) on the Western border of Israel. Gaza and the West Bank had been part of British rule, therefore it was to be part of the new nation of Israel. These two areas were taken from Israel in the Arab-Israeli War. During and after the Arab-Israeli War, many non-Jewish Arabs voluntarily packed up and moved from Israel to Gaza and the West Bank. This was done at the urging of some Muslim religious leaders and/or out of a fear that they would be persecuted by the new Israeli government, a fear that has been proven unfounded by those who did not turn themselves into refugees. The claim that Israel expelled Palestinians or marched them into camps in Gaza and the West Bank, is fictitious.

The Arab League formed the Palestine Liberation Organization (the PLO) in 1964. Yasser Arafat, an Egyptian by birth, was one of its original founders and its longtime leader.

The PLO’s objective was to organize and control all of the Palestinian political factions so they could remain united against Israel and eventually overtake it, eliminating it as a home for the Jewish people, and presumably eliminating the Jews through violence and expulsion to somewhere which has never really been determined. That means that the primary method was likely genocide. The Arab League’s first effort at this was in 1967 in a short-lived war named the Six-Day War. That war proved that no one could organize or control the various Arab countries and political factions. In Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East, author Michael Oren, shows how miscommunication, pride, mutual distrust, and dishonesty hamstrung the Arab States before they even began their invasion through their shocking defeat within six days. As a result, Israel gained or regained control of the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan.

Today, some of these areas, such as the Sinai Peninsula, are no longer in the control of Israel. This is not because Egypt or any other country was able to retake them with their military, but because Israel returned some areas in an effort to enter into peace agreements. Giving land back to a country it just defeated in battle would be very strange behavior for a country if it were intending to grow in power and wealth, but it is very consistent if the country desires to live in peace.

After the unforeseen victory of the Six-Day War, the Israeli leadership seemed to fall into the trap of not only overestimating their invincibility, but underestimating the determination of some of their hostile neighbors. For the following six years, Israel continued to prepare for invasion, but many historians believe that they did not really believe an invasion was possible. They thought their enemies were too humiliated, too disorganized, and too unstable due to poor economies and political turmoil.

Little did they know that two adversaries from the Six-Day War, Egypt and Syria, were still conspiring to invade. That invasion happened on Yom Kippur which was October 6, 1973. While Israel was caught off guard and it looked like it was going to be an easy rout in the first few days of the war, Israel was able to gain an advantage within a few days of the surprise attack and once again defeated Syria and Egypt. That war lasted three weeks.

After the cease fire, a lot of tension remained. Not only did the PLO continue to call for the elimination of Israel, Russia and the United States were on opposite sides of the conflict, and both made sure the world knew they still had nuclear weapons and knew how to use them. Some of us still remember the drills in school where we were shown how to sit under our desks in the event of an atomic blast.

Throughout the early years of Israel, non-Jewish Arabs left Israel in large numbers, while others settled in areas such as Gaza which had not been owned by Israel prior to the Six-Day War. Once again, there is no historical record of Israel displacing or exiling anyone to Gaza or the West Bank. This means that the 2023 residents of Gaza were either always residents, or they voluntarily chose to move there.

Regardless, within various Middle Eastern countries, Gaza and the West Bank, frustration, anger, and rage only continued to build. Numerous terrorist groups had formed over the years, using bombs, hijackings, hostage situations (Munich Olympics), and other acts of violence which began to have a worldwide impact on security. You may wonder when the first metal detector showed up at an airport? Most sources say it was around 1970 with New Orleans International Airport being the first to install one. This was in direct response to terrorism in the Middle East but also several hijackings involving Cuba.

While Israel was paying close attention to a number of threats before and after the Yom Kippur War, a man named Sheikh Ahmed Yassin (Yassin) began to find favor with a number of Gaza’s residents. He was portrayed as a man who simply followed the teachings of Islam and advocated for better living conditions for the average Palestinian. He was able to build schools and hospitals, and was perceived as no threat to Israel at the time. Because of this, when Israel decided to remove the various terrorist groups in Gaza, Yassin’s group did not draw the attention of the authorities. Apparently, the Israeli government had no idea he was beginning to stockpile arms, usually in parts of the new medical and educational facilities he was founding. Yassin went on to found Hamas in the late 1980’s. He was eventually imprisoned for leading numerous terrorist acts, but the violence continued.

One thing which has always disrupted the unity of the Arab nations and groups when it came to destroying Israel was the interior conflicts between Shia and Sunni Muslims. A vague analogy is to think of it in terms of the differences between Protestants and Catholics absent the violence. Both Catholics and Protestants are Christian, just as both Shia and Sunni are Muslim.

The PLO and Hamas are Sunni. Another group came to the top of the terrorist food chain in the 1980’s. This was Hezbollah (in English this means The Party of God), and it is Shia. Hezbollah is funded and supported by Iran which is predominately Shia.

Hezbollah is based in Lebanon, the nation which borders Israel’s North. Hezbollah is reputed to have more military capability than the Lebanese military due to Iran’s financial backing and support.

In 1993 Israel entered into the Oslo Accords in which it agreed to work toward the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. The Oslo Accords resulted in limited self-governance for Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip through the creation of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Although the goal of the accords was to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict they have only created a base for terrorism, especially in Gaza where it is apparent that the terrorists use civilians as human shields and opportunities for sympathy after the IDF returns fire.

Israel began building the barrier around Gaza in 1994 after the First Infatada. An infatada is a violent protest. The barrier around the West Bank (which includes Bethlehem) was built in 2002, following the Second Infatada. Prior to the violent protests in the two Infatadas, there was much more freedom of movement and commerce between Gaza and other areas in the Middle East. The terrorists worked the areas into a fervor, then blamed Israel for taking steps to keep the peace and protect innocent citizens from the violence. History repeats itself, but you need to know history to know it, and Hamas and other terrorists work very hard to keep people from knowing history.

When you visit Israel, you can drive within a few miles of the Lebanese and Syrian borders on your way to visit some of the Northern Biblical sites such as The Gates of Hell, the place where Jesus called Peter the Rock in Matthew 16:18. All along the highway, there are signs warning you not to vary off of the road and into the fields due to old land mines left behind by troops in the Yom Kippur War. There are also hundreds or probably thousands of rock walls in the fields, constructed as cover by the soldiers in the Yom Kippur War. There are active military outposts along the way, which you are warned not to photograph. These are keeping an eye on Syrian and Lebanese forces (actually Hezbollah), to make sure they are not showing signs of another invasion. As you walk through the Holy City of Jerusalem, you pass by multiple IDF posts at which soldiers stand in full body armor with automatic weapons in hand.

This is all a big culture shock for the average American. We do not see recent evidence of war on our soil, and we rarely see an openly armed military checkpoint unless there is a disaster or an emergency.

For Israel, all this is part of their everyday lives. The Jewish country is surrounded by heavily armed and hostile militaries who have never wanted the Jews to return to the Holy Land. Within those countries are heavily armed and extremely violent terrorists who have vowed to eliminate every Jew in Israel.

For the average American Christian, it is hard to understand how human beings can feel this way toward other human beings. People say there is a systemic racism problem in the U.S., but whatever racism exists here does not hold a candle to the Pistol Star of racism which many people have toward Jews in the Middle East. A short film on the indoctrination of youth was produced by the Clarion Project. Through a carefully crafted system of raising children for the specific goal of armed and violent holy war, the terrorists are handing their brand of the Islamic faith down to the next generation.

With that extremely abbreviated and abridged sketch of the history of the area, you can appreciate and recognize the complexities involved. There is a reason that the U.S. has been involved in peace talks between Israel and the other Middle Eastern nations for longer than many of us have been alive. One of the key reasons is the fact that Israel and Iran both have nuclear weapons. Iran, once an ally of Israel, has pledged to eliminate Israel, and also labels the Unites States as the “Great Satan”. As I mentioned earlier, Iran also funds and trains Hezbollah in Lebanon, and has also provided significant military resources to Hamas.

So, what is an American Christian supposed to think about today’s violence in the Middle East? On one hand, we need to pray for and hope for peace. Does this mean that Israel simply needs to lay down their weapons and extend an olive branch to Lebanon, Syria, and Iran? Based on history, which is the best predictor of the future, and the opinion of men such as Dennis Prager, the result would be a quick and ugly flurry of genocide which would probably match or exceed that of the Romans in 70 A.D. On the other hand, if the terrorists would simply stop terrorizing their own people and Israel, there would be peace.

Another possibility is a 3rd World War with the possible use of nuclear weapons.

One thing no one can promote is the continuation of terrorism. The catch is that terrorists do not seem to reform themselves into peaceable citizens who then work for the common good of their neighbors. Instead, they typically become more indoctrinated and violent over time until they are killed by suicide or by those they identify as their enemies. This has been proven time and time again by Israel’s efforts to make peace with groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. On some occasions, Israel has traded dozens of captured terrorists in order to recover one or two kidnapped Israelis or the body of an Israeli soldier or citizen. On many occasions, the released terrorists have returned to their terrorist organization to attack Israel once again.

This leaves Israel with few options other than to seek and destroy the terrorists and their strongholds. This is particularly dicey due to the terrorist practice of using human shields which are often their own family members and members of their Muslim community. Because these family members and community members are often themselves terrorized by the terrorists, or deeply indoctrinated in the terrorist mindset, they have not raised up against the terrorists but have simply been forced or duped into living as human shields and the potential of becoming little more than collateral damage and sources of propaganda when they are killed.

One of the best ways to fight terrorism is to speak the truth about it. Knowing the history of this battle between evil and the desire for peace is one thing, but once you know it, helping others to learn it is essential. This is because today’s Western culture places a high value on victimhood. Victims are automatically considered to be virtuous and good by many Americans and those in Western Europe. This plays right into the propaganda of Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terrorist groups. Think about it: When a victim lashes out in a violent way, it is simply self-defense, right? This is why many people give Hamas a pass for their violence over the last 40 years, including the demonic violence of October 7, 2023. They don’t know the history, so they see Israel as the aggressor and Palestinians as the victims. Many Palestinians are the victims, but they are the direct victims of the terrorists, not of Israel.

Therefore, it is up to us to respond to the false claims of victimhood with questions tailored to help people see the fiction in that story and come to learn the truth. Here are twenty legitimate (though sometimes a little tricky) questions to help people realize that today’s conflict is not as easily framed as Hamas, and other terrorists would like us to think. By asking these questions, those who are advocating for Hamas should come to realize just how little they know about this topic and they just might take the time to learn more, which should result in a more reasoned approach:

  1. Did Abraham take the Promised Land by force?
  2. Who governed Palestine prior to 720 B.C?
  3. When did Alexander the Great conquer much of Palestine?
  4. Who governed Palestine at the time Christ was born and through is resurrection?
  5. Who named Palestine?
  6. Why was the name Palestine chosen?
  7. When was the nation of Palestine founded?
  8. When did the first Arab nation take control of Palestine?
  9. What nation or authority controlled or governed Palestine prior to 1917?
  10. What happened on May 14, 1948?
  11. Who started the Arab-Israeli war and when?
  12. When did Israel exile Palestinians to Gaza, the West Bank, or elsewhere?
  13. When did Israel conquer Gaza and occupy it in order to make it part of Israel?
  14. Prior to 1948, was Gaza or the West Bank ever a sovereign nation or part of a sovereign nation?
  15. What has Israel done to instigate an unprovoked war or hostility on any other nation?
  16. When has Israel stated they are planning to annihilate Palestine?
  17. Are there sections of the Bible which urge Jews or Christians to kill or enslave Muslims?
  18. What would happen to Israel’s citizens if the Israeli government stopped all military operations, took down the walls and fences, and allowed the residents of Gaza and the West Bank to move freely throughout the country?
  19. Where would the Jewish residents of Israel go if the Palestinian goal (to establish an Arab State in place of Israel) is achieved?
  20. What is the Jewish population of Israel today?

If Israel were the terrorists in this scenario, as Hamas, Iran, and Hezbollah claim, many Israeli decisions and practices over the years would make absolutely no sense at all. Just as Israel returned captured lands to its hostile neighbors such as the Sanai Peninsula to Egypt, Israel has allowed the Muslims to retain control of the Temple Mount.

On June 7, 1967, during the Six-Day War, Israeli Defense Forces entered into hand-to-hand combat in the streets of the Holy City, finally winning control of the city, including the holiest site in Judaism, Temple Mount. It marked the first time that the Jewish people had control of Judaism’s holiest site in nearly 2,000 years. However, instead of restricting access of Muslims to the holiest site in all of Judaism, Israel declined to allow Jewish prayer on the place where the Temple once stood. Ten days later, in a meeting with Arab religious leaders at Al-Aqsa Mosque, Israel granted Muslims the authority to decide who could enter and pray there.

Part of this is due to the fact that the Israeli rulers were decidedly secular-minded at the time, and even today. To them, holy sites were liabilities instead of assets. They thought they could avoid continued tensions and the high costs of maintenance, upkeep, and extremely high security. Once again, in an effort to offer peace, they offered something to their enemies which, in this case, is unanimously regarded as the holiest site on earth to their own people and which was only the 3rd holiest place in Islam, Temple Mount.

What did the Muslim leaders decide ten days after Israel took full control of the Temple Mount for the first time in nearly twenty centuries? Jewish prayer was prohibited. Today, everyone is permitted to enter onto Temple Mount at certain times of the day, provided that non-Muslims do not enter the Dome of the Rock which is built over where the Holy of Holies was located, and provided you are praying from the Bible or a Jewish prayer book. I have been there, and it is a fascinating place with a stunning view of the Mount of Olives. The Western Wall below the mount remains the closest a Jewish person can get in order to pray at their holiest site. On their part, the Muslim religious leaders of the time could have tried to foster peace by allowing Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount as well, but alas, it was forbidden. And since 1967, even in spite of using the Al-Aqsa Mosque as a focal point for fostering hostilities toward Israel, the Israeli government has continued to honor the Muslim decision to prohibit any and all Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount under penalty of Israeli law. Interestingly, most Jewish Rabbis agree and still warn against even visiting the Temple Mount today, due to ritual impurity in addition to concerns over causing friction with the Muslims.

In writing this, I have concluded that not only are Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, and other hostile groups and nations in the clear wrong, Israel is the actual victim. While it is true that Israel is currently carrying out a brutal campaign against Hamas, and that Israel still has a far superior military to the terrorists and many other countries, I don’t think Israel has a choice. If anyone wants to propose a better plan on protecting 9 million citizens of Israel from continued terrorist attacks which include rape, torture, mutilation, kidnapping, and murder, I’d like to hear it. History tells me that as soon as Israel ends its current military operation in Gaza, whatever is left of Hamas will simply begin rebuilding its terrorist network once again, and they will do it with plenty of assistance from numerous other countries and groups.

Therefore, that leaves us with very little to do other than pray, speak truth to the propaganda of the terrorists and their supporters, and to hope for a peaceful solution someday.

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