Sunday, August 2, 2009

History (Part 1) A Gift from Yahweh

Israel’s claim to Palestine is based on three “historical” events. The first has nothing to do with history, the second was a hoax, and the third was an effort to legalize the longest lasting illegal occupation in modern history. First is “God’s” promise to Abraham, second is the Balfour Declaration of 1917, and third is the U.N. Partitioning of Palestine which set up a sixty-two year continuous crime against some of the most vulnerable people on earth. So, let me make my case.

We read in the Jewish Scriptures that Yahweh, the God of the Jews, promised to give Abraham land. In fact, in my lexicon, I find the word “land” listed 686 times in the Pentateuch alone. Take the word land out of the Hebrew Bible and there seems to be little left for God or Israel to be interested in. One example is:

The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes. And look from the place where you are, northward and southward, eastward and westward, for all the land which you see I will give to you and to your descendants forever. (Genesis 13:14-15)

This promise, repeated over and over in Genesis, made by Yahweh to a wondering shepherd 4000 years ago and not recorded until 800 years later, cannot stand up to history. In the 6000 years of recorded history, the area which has become known as the Holy Land has been under the sovereign control of Israel less than 500 of those years, from the time of David, approximately around the year 1000 BCE to the year 587 when Israel was carried off into captivity. All the rest of the time, until 62 years ago, Palestine was under the sovereign control of the Canaanites, Jebusites, the Philistines, Egyptians, Syrians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Turks and British. Any one of these nations could make a similar claim to the land. Yet, Israeli prime ministers and Christian Right preachers still piously shout, “God gave the land to the Jews,” as though God himself stepped down from heaven with a suitcase full of virgin territory and made a divine donation to one tribe of people.

Although Israel unashamedly declares itself to be a secular nation, its leaders still quote from the Jewish Bible to justify its claim on the occupied territories. “This country exists as a result of a promise made by God Himself.,” declared Golda Meir.[1] Yitzhak Shamir insisted on calling the captured territories of the West Bank, "Samaria and Judea," hoping to confuse American fundamentalist Christians into believing that there is a connection between Biblical Israel and the modern state.

Ha’aretz, one of the leading newspapers of Israel quoted a Rabbi, of captain rank, justifying the 1982 invasion and massacre of Lebanon:

We must not overlook the Biblical sources which justify this war and our presence here. We are fulfilling our religious duty as Jews by being here.[2]

Not only has the promise of “Land forever” made by Yahweh never been fulfilled, Arabs will point out that the promise was made to the descendents of Abraham of whom Ishmael was the first born. In fact, when the covenant promise of land was originally made with Abraham, it was Ishmael who was circumcised. Isaac had not been born.

There are some scholars (and a part of me), who say that the Biblical accounts of God’s giving land to Israel are made up by the ancient Hebrews to justify their brutal occupation of the land. It’s ironic that this tactic is still being used today. The Zionists claim of ownership of Palestine is based on a very selective and self-serving reading of the Old Testament. When we hear Christians say, “But, God gave the land to Israel.,” at least we should know that it is not that simple. It’s a religious tradition with no more claim to history than a dozen other religious traditions. Jews may believe it to be their unique history but that’s all it is…a religious tradition. On the other hand, the religious mandate, “Do unto others…” found in every religious tradition forbids the international community from acting upon “But, God gave it to the Jews.”

The second claim of Israel to the land is based on the Balfour Declaration which, if anything is not so solid. It will be the subject of my next blog.

Thomas Are
August 2, 2009

[1] Thomas L. Are, Israeli Peace/Palestinian Justice, (Clarity International, Regina, Canada) p.85.
[2] Ha’aretz, July 5, 1982.

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