Number 11. Israel: Antisemitism Notwithstanding
Dov Chaikin


If you knew the attributes which they attributed to their God, those which they wanted and those which they have adorned Him with, then you would certainly be astounded. Jehovah, Lord of Hosts, Lord of Israel, commands them to smear their houses with sheep's blood in order to save their sons and let the Egyptians perish. He is a God who feels remorse for creating Adam and for letting Saul on the throne. He is blood-thirsty, fickle-minded, harsh and greedy..”(From Israel, God's key to World Redemption by Rev Elmer A Josephson)

This quote is an extract from a 1964 Jordanian textbook for second-year high school - referring to the Jewish people. Jordan is an Arab country to which the West refers as 'moderate'. Another so-called 'moderate' Arab country is Saudi Arabia, guardian of the holiest shrines of Islam - a religion that can never come to terms with Judaeo-Christianity. The word 'Islam' itself means 'submission'; and only if Jews and Christians submit to the superiority of Islam, would they be tolerated -but only as dimhi people of an inferior status.

According to Islam's holy book, the Koran, the Bible has been falsified by its adherents: the Old testament by the Jews, the New Testament by the Christians. The Koran is claimed to contain God's final word, as revealed to Mohammed. How many people, even among Christians, are aware - or willing to admit - that while Islam is a 'monotheistic' religion, the Allah worshipped by Moslems is NOT the God of the Bible?

The uninitiated might well contend that, whereas such sentiments as voiced in the Jordanian textbook are understandably Moslem, Christians would never be guilty of such blasphemy. Yet, the spirit of Islam is so pervasive, so insidious, that it has even dominated the minds of many Arab Christians where Israel and the Jews are concerned.

GOD'S WORD

In Isaiah 55:10-11, we read:- "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth, and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it" (NASB).

Do we believe that? In fact, what manner of God do we believe in? Is he fickle-minded, as claimed in that spurious Jordanian textbook? Can we believe Him to keep His promises to the Church and to every person individually? Yes - if we can trust Him to keep the oaths He has sworn by Himself to His ancient and chosen people, with whom He made an everlasting covenant.

In Leviticus 26 we are introduced to the terrible consequences God threatens to visit upon His people Israel, should they stray away from Him. But despite the terrible wrath with which He threatens them, He also assures them that He will never forsake them:- "Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I so abhor them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God. But I will remember for them the covenant with their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God. I am the Lord" (vv 44,45).

Consider, too, the statement made about God by a pagan hired to curse Israel - and who would have done so, had God permitted him. Here is what Balaam had to say:-"God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will he not make it good" (Numbers 23:19).

PROMISES OF RETURN

Has God fulfilled all His promises to the Jewish people? Not yet. But let us consider some Scripture passages and references relating to promises God made to His ancient people, and which He has fulfilled.

“Then it will happen on that day that the Lord will again recover the second time with His hand the remnant of His people, who will remain, from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush Elam Shinar; Hamath and from the islands of the sea. And He will lift up a standard for the nations, and will assemble the banished ones of Israel and will gather the dispersed of Judah from the four comers of the earth” (Isaiah 11.11-12 – note: second time).

The second return to the Land - NOT the return from Babylonian exile, as some professing Christians would have it. These contend that the first return to the Land of Israel was when the nation came out of 'exile' in Egypt, overlooking that while it was a nation that came out of Egypt, it was merely a family of 70 that went down to Egypt - not as exiles from anywhere, but by royal invitation. Moreover, the nation that came out of Egypt was not headed for a land lost to it; rather, they were urged by God to go in and take possession of a land He had promised to their forefathers, commencing with Abraham (Exodus 6:2-4, 8).

Another prominent passage in this regard is Isaiah 43:5-7:- "Do not fear, for I am with you: I will bring your offspring from the east, and gather you from the west. I will say to the north 'Give them up' and to the south 'Do not hold them back'. Bring My sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made". Can one read this passage nowadays with no thought given to the mass wave of immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union (the north), or the wonderful rescue by Israel of the thousands of Ethiopian Jews (the south)?

Jeremiah 23:3 and 30:3, Ezekiel 39:25-29, Zephaniah 3:20 - just a few of the passages telling of the second return to the Land. And Amos 9:13-15 gives the lie to all who contend that Isaiah 11:11-12 was fulfilled in the return from Babylonian exile.

RESTORATION OF LAND –COVENANT PEOPLE

The theme of' Amos 9:13-15 is clearly expressed also in Jeremiah 33:10-13. Over the past 100 years or so, this prophecy has been - and is being - fulfilled: fields have been bought (at exorbitant prices) from absentee Arab landowners; and what was once desolate, is now - in the main - a flourishing land.

"I will make an everlasting covenant with them", we read in verse 40 of the preceding chapter. Earlier, God makes it quite clear with whom this covenant is made: "'Behold, days are coming' declares the Lord, 'when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,' declares the Lord. 'But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,' declares the Lord, 'I will put my Torah within them, and on their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people."' (Jeremiah 31:31-33; 'law' is an unfortunate translation of Torah - a word meaning 'instruction').

That this covenant is everlasting, is very strongly expressed in vv 35-37 of this chapter. This is of such magnitude, that it is repeated - in slightly different forms, but no less emphatically - in Jeremiah 33:19-22. And in the verses immediately following (23-26), the Lord is addressing Himself, in no uncertain terms, to all those - including some Christians - who are propagating false teaching concerning God's attitude to His chosen people!

A DIFFERENT VIEW

The following is extracted from A Christian View of Israel by Edward H Flannery, S J, the well-known author of The Anguish of the Jews: Twenty-three Centuries of Antisemitism.

“One might expect that a Christian could not look upon the State of Israel without certain scriptural and theological reverberations. The people of the Bible back in the land of the Bible is a development that should remind him, however vague, of his origins. But often this is not the case. Many Christians see Israel as a purely political and secular affair, and refuse to see any possible connection between it and the Israel of old...

The alleged lack of resemblance between the present Stale of Israel and the old Israel of biblical times is frequently argued by anti-Zionists. These critics, seeing Israel in a myopic light, fail to see the genuinely religious character that marks even Israel’s secular endeavor...Any visitor to a kibbutz will understand this...

The question may be asked: is not the refusal to allow a theological consideration of Israel a residue of the deicidal myth, which included the idea that Israel could never return to its homeland...? (Is it not) a kind of unconscious hangover; (taking) the form of a vague uneasiness at the prospect of the Holy Land particularly Jerusalem in the hands of the Jews?”

AUTHENTIC CHRISTIAN ATTITUDE VS MARCIONISM

Writing about thirty years within the Christian dispensation, the Apostle makes clear that the Jews still "have the covenants . .and the promises…” (Romans 9:4-5); that "God’s gifts are irrevocable" (Romans 11:29); that, because of our common patrimony, Jews are "most dear" (Romans 11:28). No further proof should be needed of Judaism's continuing election and its special status in the Christian outlook, its special claim on Christian affection. We have here an essential part of the authentic Christian attitude toward Jews and Judaism, which, unhappily, disappeared in the course of the centuries in favour of the deicide and rejection theories.

An acknowledgement of Israel's ongoing election in the plan of God invites a review of other presuppositions of the Old anti-Judaism. This latter rested on a variety of assumptions which grew up in that bitter period when the Church and the Synagogue separated all too harshly. In the main, these assumptions saw Judaism: (i) as nothing but a preparation for the Gospel; (ii) as something that should disappear with the advent of Christ; (iii) as a faith that was, at least at the time of Christ, decadent and legalistic; (iv) and after Christ as an obsolete faith without spiritual substance; (V) as fated to live on, only as 'witness to the truth of the Church and to their (Jews) own iniquity' (St Augustine).

Recent historical, scriptural and theological investigations have found all these estimates to be, in one degree or another, wrong. From them has flowed, however, what may be called a semi-Marcionism, which draws its inspiration from that second century heretic (Marcion) who rejected the Old Testament as the word of a Demiurge rather than God. Though condemned by the Church, Marcionism has not ceased to tempt Christians, and, no doubt, has found some veiled expression in the tendency that would completely de-Judaize the Church, reduce the Old Testament to a mere handbook of pious reflections and allegorize it practically out of existence. All of which has ostensibly led to a weakening of biblical faith and of the belief that God may still write large in history and in a particular manner as in days of old.

If we must believe, with St Paul, that Judaism has the covenants and promises (Romans 9:4-5), and these originally involved the land, on what ground must the land be excluded from them in post-biblical times? The ancient prophecies always spoke in terms of a divine pattern or sequence, involving sin, exile from the land, repentance and return to the land. Whereupon would Israel's latest exile elude these prophesies?

ZIONISM - LATTER-DAY PHENOMENON?

Israel - the land - has always been central to Jewish belief and to the Jewish soul: and in times of exile, an object of aspiration and prayer The yearning to return to the land - which Zionism expressed - is probably best expressed in Psalm 137:1-6.

Contrary to what some would claim, these verses prove that Zionism is not merely a latter-day phenomenon, political or otherwise - nor can one separate Zionism from Israel, or from Jewry. Yet, among critics of Israel, not excluding Christians, it is a matter of course to make a clear distinction between Zionism and Judaism or, for that matter, between Zionism and Jewry. According to these critics, the State of Israel is not a product of Judaism, but of Zionism, They would have it that while Judaism is a religion, Zionism is a modern political movement.

“SINISTER CONSPIRACY”

A further quote from Flannery's A Christian View of Israel is in order:

“Judaism is, in reality essential. From its inception it was conceived as a sort of trinity: a people, a Torah, and a land. To a considerable degree these concepts were considered interchangeable. The Hebrew Scriptures, the Talmud, Jewish literature - medieval and modern - and the Jewish liturgy are in truth replete with the idea of possession of or return to Zion (as symbol of the whole land)..."

'One can understand, Jewish' dismay at a particular concept of Zionism so often found not only in Arab and Soviet propaganda, but on the lips of Christian critics of Israel. What to Jews is a word of honour and sacred tradition, is portrayed as a sinister conspiracy or aggression. From Soviet spokesmen, Arab apologists, and these Christian critics, one hears of ‘official’ Zionism ‘imperialist' Zionism 'world' Zionism and the like - subtle attempts to dissociate Zionism from Judaism or from the Jewish people, and to cast Zionism under a cloud of suspicion, thereby opening the way to attacks on the Israeli State.. One may wonder whether Christian anti-Zionists are conversant with the existence and history of Christian Zionism. It is an interesting but little known page in' our history. It should be re-read today. It would help to show that Christian pro-Zionism need not necessarily be merely a response to Jewish insistence, but an impulse that may find its energy in Christianity itself".

CHRISTIAN ZIONISM AND CHRISTIAN ANTI-SEMITISM

In a sermon delivered in June of 1864 on the first ten verses of Ezekiel 37 - the Vision of the Dry Bones - Charles Spurgeon uttered words to the following effect: If words mean anything, and if the context means anything, it is quite clear that one day there will be a political restoration of the Jews to their land - to be followed by their spiritual restoration!

That is hardly surprising. From the 17th century onwards there were Christians (in Britain particularly) who did not merely believe that one day the Jews would go home, they knew it, since they knew the Bible! It is noteworthy that some of the British inspirers of the (20th century) Balfour Declaration, the British Government policy-paper so central to the political development of the Jewish State, were motivated in part by a Christian Zionism.

“Another root of that State was anti-Semitism in Christian countries. Ironically Christians have thus indirectly had a double hand one negative, one positive, in the creation of the State of Israel“ (Flannery)

It was 'Christian' anti-Semitism that played a major role, towards the end of the 19th century, in the drive that brought the first mass wave in modern times of Jewish immigrants to Palestine. In the pogroms in Eastern Europe, the Ukraine and Romania notably, it was more often than not the village priest - holding a crucifix aloft - who led the gang bent on pillage, rape and murder of Jewish communities.

MODERN-DAY ZIONISM

Throughout the ages, there was a trickle of Jews coming back to the Holy Land. But it was not until 1882 that the (aforementioned) first mass wave of Jewish immigrants came to Palestine: young men and women, despairing of being able to integrate in their countries of birth, who 'heard' the Call to return Home. Often at exorbitant prices, the fallow and marshy fields were sold to those 'crazy' young pioneers, many of whom died of malaria in clearing the swamps. But clear them they did! Like their predecessors in centuries gone by - those who dreamed of returning to the Land of Promise, and those who actually did return -these young people were Zionists.

For the further evolvement of the Zionist ideal, we must shift our historical sights to Paris, France -where, in 1894, Captain Alfred Dreyfus stood trial for treason. Found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment on the notorious Devil's Island, off the coast of South America's French Guiana, Dreyfus actually served a number of years there before his name was cleared and he was reinstated. Alfred Dreyfus was a Jew. Covering the trial for the Viennese Neue Freie Presse was another Jew, born in Budapest in 1860 into an assimilated family. The wave of anti-Semitism that gripped France during the Dreyfus trial convinced Theodor Herzl that only in his own homeland could the Jew live freely as a Jew. He set about bringing this vision before world Jewry, by convening a conference attended by Jewish delegates from all over the world.

“IN FIVE YEARS, FIFTY AT MOST”

The first Zionist Congress was held in the Swiss city of Basle, in 1897. After the Congress, Herzl recorded in his diary words to this effect: "In Basle I founded the Jewish State. If I were to proclaim this aloud now, I would be greeted with universal laughter. But in five years, fifty at most, all the world will acknowledge it!"

Was this assimilated Jew a latter-day prophet? Fifty years later, on 29th November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly - by a vote of 33 to 13 - voted for the partition of Palestine and the establishment of a Jewish State, an Arab State and an international enclave containing Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The Jewish Agency, representing Palestine's Jewish population, accepted the partition resolution. The Arabs, on the other hand, rejected it out of hand. They wanted all and still want all!

ISRAEL A SOVEREIGN NATION AGAIN

Israel's War of Independence broke out on 30th November 1947, the day after the UN Palestine Partition resolution - when Arab irregulars launched attacks on Jewish neighborhoods and traffic. The governments of the surrounding Arab countries announced that if the Jews availed themselves of the Partition Resolution, declaring a state of their own, they would attack - a 'promise' they kept. At 4pm on Friday 14th May 1948, David Ben Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel. The following morning, five Arab armies marched across the borders of Palestine to attack the fledgling State. The call then went out to clear out of the way 'of our victorious armies - and once we have thrown the Jews into the sea, you can come back and join in the spoils'. How many people are aware - or prepared to admit -that that was the actual cause of the Palestinian refugee problem?!

DIVINE INTERVENTION

Israel's total Jewish population in 1948 - men, women and children -was barely over 600,000. Of this number, no more than about 30,000 had had any military training whatsoever: most in the British Army during World War II (wearing the 'Palestine' tag on their shoulders), the rest in the various paramilitary underground units in Palestine. Yet this small number - ill-equipped, ill-armed - defeated four Arab armies (the British trained and led Jordanian army proved too strong), as well as the bands of Arab irregulars! Could this have been done merely in their own strength?

Twenty years later, in the course of the Six-Day War of June 1967, Israel regained much of the territory allotted it by divine promise. Aside from the Sinai peninsula, since returned to Egypt, Israel took East Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria - as well as the Golan Heights.

IN THE YEAR OF JUBILEE

The events of 1967, the taking of East Jerusalem in particular, bring to mind what happened 50 years earlier. In this, one must also consider chapter 25 of Leviticus, a focal point of which being that in the year of Jubilee - the 50th year - land reverts to its rightful ownership.

World War I. Early in December 1917, British troops were advancing towards Jerusalem. On December 7th, British planes flew over Jerusalem, dropping leaflets - in Arabic - calling for the surrender of the city. The leaflets were signed 'Allenby' -General Edmund Allenby was commander of the British Expeditionary Force - and the Arabic reading population mistook this for a word written exactly the same: Al-Nebbi ('The Prophet' - Mohammed, needless to say). Two days later, on 9th December, Jerusalem was surrendered to the British without a shot being fired - ending 400 years of Turkish Moslem rule.

The motto of the squadron that flew over Jerusalem then was: "I spread my wings and keep my promise". It is probably a little-known fact that the required reading in all Anglican churches in Britain that week was Isaiah 31 - where, in verse 5, we read: "Like flying birds so the Lord of hosts will protect Jerusalem. He will protect and deliver it; He will pass over and rescue it.” Coincidence, of course!

Fifty years later, on the third day of the Six-Day War, Jerusalem was reunited under its rightful ownership! Early in the morning on the first day of the war, the late Levi Eshkol, then Prime Minister of Israel, sent word (via the United Nations) to King Hussein of Jordan - which had illegally annexed East Jerusalem, as well as Judea and Samaria, in 1950 (giving rise to the 'West Bank' myth) to the effect that if Jordan would keep the peace, Israel would not attack, But in what must be viewed as a divine calendar, it was a Jubilee year from the time the Lord chose a Christian general to relieve Jerusalem from Moslem rule. Jordan did attack, and Israel had 'no option', but to take East Jerusalem - as well as Judea and Samaria - from Jordan.

CONCLUSION

Much more can be - and has been -written about the People and Land chosen by God, for His own purposes. Hardly a day passes when Israel is not in the forefront of world news, more often than not being presented by the world media in a negative light.

But to the true Christian, it is the Bible that must count. Can a person professing to be a follower of Yeshua (Jesus), disregard what the Lord Himself said: "Salvation is from the Jews"?

NOTES

1. Palestine was the name given to the land by the Romans, after they had crushed the second revolt against them (AD 132-135). What is one to make of Bible maps showing ‘Palestine at the time of Jesus'?

2. All Bible quotations from NASB.

(First published in Tishrei Vol 1, No 3. The Journal Tishrei was launched in 1992 to highlight the need for the Church to return to its Jewish roots)