THE WEST, ISRAEL, AND THE ARAB NATIONS
Usually when terrorism is challenged, the terrorist gives the impression that the battle against terrorism is a fight against the Islamic faith. Young people like Faisal grow up convinced that the issue at stake is that of religion and that of defense of land. The challenge for world leaders is to clear the misunderstanding among the new generation that has put the world in jeopardy. And this is why we require godly leaders who depend on God for wisdom to face the challenges. The Western nations have traditionally been perceived as having a good relationship with Israel, and being against the Arabs, based on religious views. But America, Britain, France, and other European countries do not support Israel based on their mutual religious views. After all, not all Jews are Christians, and some Arabs are Christians. Past decisions among countries of the world have been made based on political and economic interests rather than religion, but the perception persists in some parts of the world and in particular among the new generations of Muslim Arabs that the powers in the West support the Jews against them. After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack against America, President Bush said that the war against terrorism was neither against the Arabs nor the Muslims. His opinion was supported by other politicians of the West. But the terrorist leaders continued to draw religion into their actions because that was the easiest way to gain the sympathy of the people. They appear to have achieved their goal because most terrorists are protected in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan due to a sense of loyalty among people and their religions.
Effects of Past Foreign Relations: The foreign-affairs relations of Western nations give credence to the perception people have about us, even if the assertion is not true. Events in history tend to support their wrong perception. Bernard Lewis, in his book The Crisis of Islam, wrote about the events of 1918. He said: In 1918, the Ottoman sultanate, the last of the great Muslim empires, was finally defeated—its capital, Constantinople occupied, its sovereign held captive, and much of its territory partitioned between the victorious British and French Empires. The Arab-speaking former Ottoman provinces of the Fertile Crescent were divided into three new entities, with new names and frontiers. Two of them, Iraq and Palestine, were under British Mandate; the third, under the name Syria, was given to the French. Later, the French subdivided their mandate into two, calling one part Lebanon and retaining the name Syria for the rest. Palestine, Syria, and Lebanon, the West Bank, Jordan, and Israel are at the center of the crisis in the Middle East. Early colonization, followed by the struggle between the West and the East, the cold war of capitalism and communism, tend to build up the misunderstandings and conflicts around the world and in the Middle East. It also resulted in the level of terrorism that has enveloped the world. The perception appears difficult to change because the environment has been taken over by diverse interests, including the religious politicians. The conflict in the Middle East, which has defied any solution, has stressed nations beyond limits, and because of lack of the knowledge of God in the handling of the issues, no one seems to be able to control the unimaginable destruction.
Israel in World Affairs: The father of the Jews was a man named Jacob [the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham]. God changed his name to Israel when Jacob wrestled with Him in a trance. God was pleased with Jacob because he stood by his faith to receive blessings from the Lord. The name Israel means “one who overcomes.” The Bible says: Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” —Genesis 32:27–28. The change of Jacob’s name was a great moment in the history of the world. The Jews as they are known today came into world focus. Israel, a nation with rich history, can therefore not be mentioned without the mention of the name of God. The Jews’ yesterday, today, and their future have much to do with God and their fortune has always been tied to their relationship with the God of Israel. It is an irony therefore to see the new generations of Jewish leaders handling their issues, political or economic, without considering the importance of God, the reason for failure in all the efforts to resolve the crisis in their land.
Israelis’ Return to the Promised Land: The Jews have been through many turbulent times as a nation. Their disobedience to God has usually led them to defeat, making them captives and often forcing them into exile. They were slaves in Egypt until they were led by Moses, and later Joshua, to the Promised Land. They fought several nations, mostly Arab countries that occupied their homeland while they were exiled. They incurred the wrath of many groups, particularly those who sympathized with the Palestinians who were forced out of Israeli land (Canaan) by the Jews when they returned from exile. It is the opinion of some that the Israelis could no longer lay claim to the land of their possession because of their long absence resulting from many exiles. Again, these are arguments not properly researched, or which are based on the usual godlessness in society. Those who subscribe to this idea may have not read history, or they consider such history as mere religion. This ignorance can only aggravate the bad situation. God made an unbreakable covenant with Abraham, the patriarch of the Jews. The Lord said to him, “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever” (Genesis 13:14–15). This is the land that is being disputed today in the Middle East. The problem is that we treat God as if He does not exist and we have not been able to explain Him away.
Israeli Nation: Implication of US Recognition In 1947, the United Nations General Assembly drafted Resolution 181, terminating the British mandate to partition the territory of Palestine into two states, Jewish and Arab. The resolution enabled the Jews to return to the Promised Land. On November 29, the resolution was adopted by thirty-three countries (fifty-nine percent), mostly Eastern Europe and the United States. Thirteen countries (twenty-three percent) were opposed, mostly in the Middle East and Asia. Ten countries, including China and Great Britain, did not vote, and one country, Thailand, was not present. In May of 1948, President Truman declared recognition of the State of Israel, making the United States of America the first country in the world to do so. This declaration met with severe opposition from US citizens. Some feared that supporting the Jewish state would harm relations with the Muslim world. Because oil and gas, the main sources of energy in the world, are in great supply in the Muslim countries of Saudi Arabia, Libya, and others, they feared such declaration would jeopardize American relationship with these countries and limit access to Middle Eastern oil. The prompt recognition of Israel as a nation in 1948 by the United States of America, the most powerful country of the world, was a major boost for a new independent state but not to the pleasure of the Arab world. However, the position of America in the community of nations could not be easily ignored by all, including those not favorably disposed to it. Was Truman’s decision based on religion? The president was simply a godly man. Godliness surpasses religion. Though he alone knows why he took such a step, I believe his decision was on a good reason. Besides the fact that it was a fact of history that Canaan was the land given by God, the Landlord of the world, to the Jews, the president must have been mindful of the covenant of God with the Jews. He was careful not to regard God’s words as mere religion. Only those who know God’s word would act to escape His wrath. Here is the dilemma of the president, who was knowledgeable in the words of God: God told Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse: and all people on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). President Harry S. Truman, a man who feared God, must have weighed the options between the benefits of oil and gas and obeying the will of God. It appeared he acted to protect America and the people from the curse and fierce anger of God in line with the oath he swore to. This is one of the reasons America is blessed. Unfortunately, before the resolution to settle the two states (Jewish and Arab) could be implemented, war broke out. While the Jews declared their independence on May 14, 1948, five Arab states—Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria—attacked Israel. The crisis and its effects have remained in the world until today.
Foreign Policy Design: Foreign policy is usually designed to promote cooperation between nations of the world for mutual political and economic benefits. The policies are framed to consider the national interests of all countries. In theory, at least, interaction among the nations is evaluated and monitored to maximize benefits of multilateral cooperation. No nation can be self-sufficient; one reason why a nation would further its interests through peaceful cooperation with other countries. When a foreign policy is good, the relationship can blossom because everyone is happy and value is added to the lives of the citizens. But this is not always the case; diverse situations often occur in relationships between different nations because of the unique backgrounds of the people. The makers of foreign policies, therefore, should consider those peculiarities in order to make positive changes for the well-being of all the people. Nations that have suffered deprivations in the past as a result of slow development require assurance from developed nations. Even when there appears to have been mistakes in the past, the leading nations of the world should allay the fear of the less developed nations that such disadvantages will not be allowed to occur again. The engagement of these poor nations by the developed countries should not only be transparent but must be seen as such by the people. The suspicions resulting from past relationships will, however, always be a problem until an honest engagement over time is sustained. With such reassurance, the aggrieved nations of the world may be convinced that this new engagement is for mutual benefits.
However, the condition of man’s sinful heart militates against the attainment of this objective of achieving mutual trust among nations of the world. The planners of foreign policies usually do not consider the important issue of common interest; rather, the interests of the planning nation are considered as priority. In addition, the individuals responsible for formulating the guidelines try to weave their individual interests into the planning document. The result is an arrangement that does not protect the interests of all but rather the selfish interests of a few. Self-serving foreign policies do not promote understanding, because other nations feel exploited. For example, America is the leading advocate of democracy in the world. But the democratic nation’s engagement of some world dictators and leaders, like Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, former president of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf, and others, gave the impression to the world that there is no sincerity in the fight for democracy. It appears it is an issue of play when it suits. The revolt in the Middle Eastern countries of Syria and Egypt, and also some African countries by their citizens against their leaders at the turn of this decade has exposed the insincerity of such foreign policies. The people see democratic nations as hypocrites who only preach democracy but are willing to deal with dictators so long as their interests are served. As long as international relationships are predicated on only what we can get from others, such efforts will end in bitterness and war.
Ideological Differences: The West and the East have engaged in many serious conflicts in their competition to have the greatest political and economic impact on other nations of the world, especially in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. The goal has been to spread their ideological views and style of government across the world. The West wanted to ensure democracy; the East, socialism and communism. In doing so, it is believed they will also have good access to trade and economic benefits. The struggle for influence in world affairs has therefore resulted in these powerful nations backstabbing each other in their quest to gain access and control in various parts of the world. The decades of cold war between the West and the East, particularly the Soviet Union and the United States of America, was not only an issue of ideological differences but also the level of influence each was able to have in the nations of the world. The Cold War and the way it was handled over the years aggravated the suspicions most Arab nations had about the super powers of the West and the East in domination of world affairs. This perception was created from wrong information that both the West and the East sent out about themselves in each one’s attempt to present the other in a bad light in order to have an upper hand politically and economically.
Osama Bin Laden Osama bin Laden, the official arrowhead of world terrorism, bought into suspicion early in his life that the developed nations of the world only care for their national/nations’ interest. He had lost his father in 1967 at the age of ten, and was thereafter sent to Broumanna High School in Beirut, Lebanon by his family to continue his education. Before he completed his schooling, war broke out in Lebanon. Forced to leave the country he loved due to the fighting that devastated the nation, he returned to Saudi Arabia a sad man. The suspicion in bin Laden grew as he understood that the war that broke out in Lebanon was the handiwork of the West in an attempt to promote the interest of the Jews in the Middle East and also to destroy the Islamic religion. In 1975 bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia with the belief that the super powers were responsible for the destruction of his beloved home country, Lebanon. The seed of discord was promoted by the super powers themselves, who thought they were outdoing each other but unknowingly created monsters that would be very difficult to control. In Saudi Arabia, bin Laden embraced Dr. Sheikh Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, an Islamic scholar and teacher at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. Dr. Azzam was an influential Palestinian Sunni Islamic scholar and theologian who preached in favor of defensive jihad by Muslims to help the Afghan mujahedeen against the Soviet Union. He influenced bin Laden and motivated him to fight any “heathen” nation of “infidels” who would invade and occupy a Muslim country. The invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union in 1978 was therefore a turning point for the young bin Laden. He saw the Soviet Union’s actions as an affront against Islam and determined to defend his religion. He recruited persons of like mind and waged war to resist the Soviet army. His leadership was hailed among the Islamic world. Bin Laden easily mobilized people to resist the Soviets. All over the world, particularly in the Arab nations and Africa, young men enlisted in the war. Recruitment and training camps were full and active. Adam Robinson captures this scenario in his book Bin Laden: Behind the Mask of the Terrorist. Robinson wrote, “Outrage of the soviet invasion immediately attracted hundreds of Arabs and Muslims from around the world, vowing to protect Islamic land.”79 According to Robinson, in February 1980, the Afghan mujahedeen group, who were in the forefront of the resistance against the Soviets, printed propagandas meant to sensitize the people of Afghanistan on the war against Soviets who occupied a Muslim land and to attract more support for the war. The leaflets contained the following wording:
Do not accept the orders of the infidels, wage jihad against them.…The Muslim people and the mujahideen of Afghanistan, with the sublime cry of “Allah o Akbar” [“God is great”], will bring down their iron fist on the brainless head of the infidel and Communist government…. Mujahideen Muslims, remember that our weapons are the weapons of faith. These are the strongest and most effective weapons in the world. Even the most modern weapons will be unable to resist ours. That is why, if we resist Soviet imperialism’s infidel government we will be victorious, and it will suffer a crushing defeat…. The only path to happiness is faith in the jihad and martyrdom. Osama bin Laden appeared to be an intelligent man who could have been an asset to society. Instead, he spent the better part of his life in deserts and trenches, with no freedom. His potential was wasted. Most of the world wishes he had not been born. Bin Laden had been on the wanted lists of the United States since the 9/11 attack on America. He was believed to be behind most terrorist attacks on Americans and American interests. He was killed on Sunday, May 1, 2011 by the Navy SEALs of the United States Military “in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.” Afghanistan’s Soviet Invasion and the Mistake of the West The contributions of the Western world, particularly the United States, towards the build-up of getting the Soviets out of Afghanistan was done without considering its ripple effect on the world. The West condemned the Soviet invasion. Their condemnation further strained the tenuous relationship that had existed between the Soviet Union and America. But not only that, actions taken in furtherance of getting Soviets out of Afghanistan become a source of security breaches. The Western nations subsidized a volunteer army to fight the Soviet Union. Their aid included recruitment of troops and training for the soldiers. Schools and camps were operated in centers throughout the West. Little did these democratic nations know that among those they were training were members of a group of Islamic fundamentalists who called themselves Mekhtab al Khadamat (MAK). MAK later became al Qaeda, the world’s most dreaded terrorist group. In 1991, when the Soviet Union withdrew troops from Afghanistan, the graduates of these schools and camps had no other jobs to occupy them. They toppled the governments of many African countries, using state resources to further terrorist operations. Trained terrorists are now scattered all over the world, and the West has become the victim of the terrorism they helped fund. The fight the West had against communism cannot compare to the acts of international terrorism under the guise of Islamic jihad. The communist-capitalist Cold War was well defined, the players were known, and the war was fought within the confines of law. Leaders often found themselves at negotiating tables. But terrorism has no definition, no visible players, no rules, and no negotiations.
Middle East Resolution: The way the world has always treated God as if He does not exist in the handling of issues is also the bane of the problem today as we grapple with the crisis in the Middle East. Since the Arab-Israeli war in 1948, the Middle East has remained a hot spot in international diplomacy. This conflict has dominated world affairs more than any other. It has been exploited by individuals to justify terrorist attacks all over the world. Many pragmatic steps have been initiated by world leaders and organizations, such as the United Nations, to find a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Several American presidents, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, etc., have brought Israeli and Arab leaders to the negotiation table. But none of the efforts have considered the relevance of God, and have therefore not succeeded. President Jimmy Carter in particular had a genuine passion for peace in the Middle East. He made numerous visits to the Jewish nation and to the Palestinians, the main opponents of the Jews. He wrote books on practical solutions to the Middle East crisis. During his time as president of the United States, he rallied leaders in the Middle East, including the president of Egypt and the king of Jordan, to broker peace between the Jews and their Arab neighbors. In September 1978, Jimmy Carter initiated thirteen days of secret negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat. The agreement which was signed on March 26, 1979 with all hopes to end the Arab/Israeli conflicts did not make much impact. Mr. Sadat was assassinated on October 7, 1981, two years after the agreement by members of Islamist nationalists associated with the Muslim Brotherhood under the name of Islamic jihad. It appears, however, that Carter’s and other past leaders’ zeal for peace, though genuine, was not fruitful because it did not consider the history and the importance of the interventions of God in this issue that has defied all known human solutions. A serious consideration of the history of the Jews, as recorded in the Bible, perhaps could have given proper understanding as to the limitations of man and woman to broker peace between Israel and her neighbors. But that has not been the case. President Carter expressed in his book We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land: A Plan that Will Work: Although President Gerald Ford was known as a friend of Israel, neither he nor his predecessors had considered a strong move toward a comprehensive peace agreement. Instead of the gradualist approach being pursued by him and Secretary of State Kissinger, I argued during the general election campaign that a “limited settlement, as we have seen in the past, still leaves unresolved the underlying threat to Israel. A common comprehensive settlement is needed—one that will end the conflict between Israel and its neighbors once and for all.”
Decades after Mr. Carter left office, the world is still far from restoring peace in the Middle East. Rather, the issue has become more complicated. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also played a role in the Middle East crisis with a view to finding an enduring solution to the problem. Their efforts have been continued by the current American president, Barack Obama. But no visible progress has been achieved. Rather, the world continues having trouble from the Middle East. The fact that peace meetings and initiatives have not achieved much is an indication that something is missing in all the negotiations, and that is ‘God’. The understanding of the history of the Jews and the relevance of God is fundamental to the resolution of the Middle East crisis. Peace can be achieved in Israel and the Middle East, but not on human terms. It can only be on the terms of God. God holds the key to the determination of the crisis. It will continue to be fruitless if in our efforts we think we can make peace in this circumstance without the interventions of God. And unfortunately, the leaders appear not to believe that God does exist, and when they have some convictions of His existence, they do not want to be seen mentioning God for political reasons because God is associated with religion, which politicians want to avoid. The issue is too complex for the human methods being used. Many issues involved are too hot to handle. There is the contentious issue of the city of Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Israel; Also many other historical cities, like Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. To ask the Jews to give up these places is like asking Israel to lose her identity. But it is the rationalizing of some individuals that Israel should give up the land if the action would bring peace in the Middle East. Good as these opinions are, the decision of God overrides any human idea. The solution to the problems of Israel and her neighbors does not therefore lie in the White House or with the United Nations. The answer to the Middle East crisis is with God. I, however, have two suggestions: first, what world leaders and peace brokers can do, which is temporary; second, what only God can do, which is ultimate.
The Temporary Human Solution: Israel and the land of Canaan came into being by the word and promise of God. The land in dispute in the Middle East was therefore the creation of God. When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. “I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.” —Genesis 17:1–8. This covenant of God with Abraham cannot be broken by man. And there is no evidence in history that God has changed His mind. We therefore need to take God seriously. We seldom remember that God is a higher Being whose words are law and none of us can disobey His words without serious consequences. We are ordinary clay that has temporary existence on earth, but God and His words last forever. The Bible says, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever” (1 Peter 1:24).
God is supreme and He does not defer to us on any issues unless He chooses to. David reminds us that “the earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). When God speaks, we should reverence His words and take him seriously. All parties to the conflict in the Middle East should therefore appreciate the importance of God and His covenant in regards to these issues. Suffice to say, God is above all leaders and kings in the world; America, Israel, and the Arabs should defer to Him on all decisions affecting the land. The resolution of God cannot be faulted. The world, including the Arabs, should accept Israel as a nation and a fact of history which cannot be broken. That appreciation would enable Israelis and Arabs to tolerate one another, bearing in mind that God has the ultimate power. Both parties could live together in peace if they humbly accepted the facts and respected them. The hearts of the people in Israel and Palestine should eschew the bitterness of the past and respect human life and peaceful coexistence. Also, the current and past Jewish leaders have not helped the crisis because of their failure to recognize and put in proper perspectives the God of Israel. That God remains relevant today, tomorrow, and forever in the affairs of Israel and the Middle East as well as in the entire world. Peace will be an illusion until the Jews find leaders who will take them back to the God of Israel. As in the past, so also now, the situation in Israel is dependent on the people’s relationship with God. When they disobeyed Him in the past, they were punished. Sin accounted for most of the afflictions and forced exiles their forefathers went through. But when they repented, God had mercy on them and delivered them. He will do the same today. The current travail of the Jews is not new.
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