Saturday, October 3, 2009

Israel, Eschatology, and Oppression

You might not think it possible, but an erroneous eschatology has caused its adherents to actively support the organized oppression of innocent peoples in the Middle East. Israel's existence as a nation is thought by many people, especially fundamentalist and evangelical Christians, to be the fulfillment of God's plan for the Last Days.

The term eschatology is a theological term, which comes from the Greek word eschatos, meaning: last. Christians who hold to what is known as pre-millennial eschatology believe the world is getting worse and that Christ's second coming is soon at hand. They also believe the sudden appearance of Christ will initiate what is known as the Rapture of the Church, which could occur at any moment.

No one can really understand the problems in the Middle East without a working knowledge of the area's history and religions. Christians who adhere to pre-millennial eschatology support Israel's right to exist in the Middle East because they believe that God (in the Bible) has promised the Holy Land to Israel. Fundamentalist Jews, which include many Israeli settlers, also believe this to be true; although their eschatology is much different from that of the Christians. The one commonly held belief between fundamentalist Jews and Christians, as it expresses itself today, is the belief that the geographical area traditionally known as Palestine doesn't belong to the Palestinians; it belongs to the Jews.

Few people are aware of the history of the modern incarnation of the nation of Israel, which began in Britain during the early twentieth century. Zionism was a mostly secular movement of people who wanted to occupy what was once the land of Israel in an area that has traditionally been known as Palestine.

Britain elicited the Arab nations to help them fight against Germany during World War I, during which time they also promised the Arabs control over the Holy Land after the war. What Britain didn't tell the Arabs was that they had no intention of giving control of the Holy Land to the Arabs, because they had already promised it to the Zionists for the building of their new homeland nation of Israel. The Balfour Declaration deeded the land to the Zionist and the Arabs, especially the Palestinians, were going to be forced off their land so that it could now be occupied by Jews.

Israel didn't officially become a nation until shortly after World War II when, in 1947, Israel gained its independence from the British protectorate. Israel's first Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, had led a terrorist group, known as the Irgun, in a campaign of violent politically motivated terrorist attacks in order to convince the British that the Holy Land wasn't worth the trouble the Irgun was causing them, especially after the Irgun's bombing of the King David Hotel. Israel's troubles with its neighbors began immediately and have continued ever since. The native population of the Holy Land, the Palestinians, had their land stolen, were forced to relocate, and ended up living in refugee camps.

To this day, Israeli settlers continue to build their homes on land stolen from the Palestinians. Forced into refugee camps, the Palestinian people live out a meager and miserable existence in the squalor of those camps. Gaza, the largest of the Palestinian refugee camps, was recently subjected to what can only be described as the brutal and merciless slaughter of thousands of its inhabitant by Israel's military forces.

How, I wonder, can anyone support the nation of Israel? The U. S. has traditionally been a strong supporter of Israel and continues to be to this day. President Obama, however, appears to be less enthusiastic a supporter than the Israel supporters would like for him to be. I'm glad the president's not an enthusiastic supporter of Israel, and I wish the U. S. would stop supporting what amounts to a criminally oppressive and murderous regime.

If we ever want to see peace in the Middle East, Israel is going to have to go. The problem is that Israel will never go without a fight and the U. S. is pledged to go into this fight with Israel if necessary. But why allow the actions of a nation that is both in the wrong and a half a world away dictate U. S. foreign policy regarding Israel's neighbors? Are they our enemies simply because they're Israel's enemies? Could it be that by supporting Israel we are supporting the oppression of an innocent people group to the point of doing nothing to help them as they were being slaughtered in Gaza? I find the whole situation shameful and disgusting. Frankly I wish the U. S. would cut Israel loose.

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