This morning, Andy Schmookler and I had our monthly appearance on 550 AM WSVA.
In the past, we have been told that the subjects of guns and abortion are off limits for discussion. Therefore, I was caught off guard when, before going on the air today, we were informed that we would be starting off the show talking about firearms and the 2nd Amendment due to the recent school shootings in Florida.
Although that issue took up most of the time in the show, we also spoke briefly about the situation in the Middle East including the corruption charges against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the potential for greater conflict in an almost constantly volatile region. Last, was the issue of Mitt Romney’s run for the U.S. Senate representing the state of Utah and whether or not he would stand up to Donald Trump if Romney were elected.
Several weeks ago, quite a few of my friends were sharing a video regarding the situation in the Middle East produced by Dennis Prager. In case you haven’t seen it, you can find it here:
After seeing this video, I was disturbed. I argued that the video was far too simplistic in both the problem and solution to this issue and it failed to take into account many events that took place before the creation of the modern state of Israel, such as WWI and the Sykes-Picot Agreement.
Here, let me offer a bit of history.
During WWI, Britain and France wished to defeat the Central Powers, which included the Ottoman Empire. For those who don’t know, during WWI the Ottoman Empire (sometimes called the Turks) ruled the Middle East. As a way to accomplish their goal, Britain and France encouraged the local Arab populations to rise up in revolt against their Turkish rulers. The Europeans promised that if they did so, the Arabs would be able to rule themselves, which for some Arabs meant the recreation of an Arab Caliphate or the birth of a single, massive Arab state. Unfortunately for the Arabs, while the British and the French made these promises, they were secretly working on carving up the Middle East into British and French spheres of influence (along with the Russians to a lesser extent) in the Sykes-Picot Agreement. When the Soviets came to power in Russia, they released this information to the public, much to the embarrassment of the British and the French.
Then, in 1917, the British created the Balfour Declaration. This statement called for a Jewish homeland in the region known as Palestine. Note that to avoid upsetting the Arabs further, it mentions a “Jewish homeland”, not a “Jewish State”. Afterward, some Arabs tried to make good on the promises made to them during the war by creating a large Arab state, such as the Arab Kingdom of Syria, but it was suppressed, conquered, and broken up by the European powers.
In 1947, after the unbelievable persecution endured by the Jewish people in WWII, the U.N. released their partition plan for dividing the territory in Palestine between a Jewish state of Israel and an Arab state of Palestine. And most people know the multitude of conflicts that have transpired since that time. Certainly one could and should spend much more time on the subject, but this basic information forms the framework.
Although I have mixed feeling about Glenn Beck, on his show yesterday he explored the history of the Middle East conflict. Unlike Mr. Prager, who claims the situation more or less stems from an irrational hatred of the Jewish people by the Arabs, Mr. Beck looked back at WWI and what events helped shape the Middle East we know today. I recommend giving it a read/listen.
Palestine is an international issue that has so far eluded human wisdom to solve it. It is impossible to reason and come to terms when emotions are entangled with the issue.
From the Palestinian view point there is no justification for the plight and sufferings of the Palestinians. They were evicted from land their ancestors have lived for thousands of years where their parents and grand parent’s graves are located. None of the Justice codes of the present day civilized countries can justify what has happened and is happening. So this is an issue that has evaded human wisdom so far in solving it. Eminent diplomats and statesmen sincerely tried to crack this nut with all the ammunitions in their arsenal, and of no avail.
Before we can get to the root cause of the difficulty in solving this problem, we have to turn to lessons from history. The solution to the problem depends on the answer to the question, to whom does the land belong? What is the criterion used to determine ownership. The land belongs to the person who is the cause behind it. Who is the cause behind it? Is it created or just formed through Big Bang. Scientists admit that nothing comes from nothing, and there must be a reason behind everything. With this argument we have to admit that God must be the reason behind the land. Now you might ask who created God. Our knowledge of God is limited to what is revealed to us by God. If you have something in your mind and you do not want to reveal it, there is no way to find it out. Same way the mystery is unsearchable for the time being.
Based on a person’s knowledge, understanding and experience, one can believe either way. But the truth is only one no matter what a person believes. Our faith can change as our understanding change.
So if the land belongs to God, the owner has every right to give it to anybody. If you learn history, God gave this right to different cultures at different periods in History. Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, and the ten empires that came after the Roman empire, the last being the British empire are all cultures God used to hand over this right of ownership. God is the author of history, and God allowed each culture a certain point in time to rise, reach its zenith and decline and set. Vestiges of all these cultures are still around us, cherishing and nourishing the memories of their glorious past. If they try to go back to the old boundaries, it is racing against time, and of no use other than bloodshed. None of the ruling cultures in the countries of the world today are inhabitants of the land they are ruling. Their ancestors moved in from elsewhere, and subdued the inhabitants that came their earlier. Some are trying to rewrite history and prove that they were the original inhabitants of the country to establish a claim for the land.
Now what claim the Israelites have on the land that they claim as their own? God let the Canaanites rule the land initially, and then removed the Canaanites and gave the land to Israel for a certain period. Assyrians captured the northern kingdom and took the Israelites captives and settled them elsewhere in the kingdom. They brought other races and settled them in the Northern kingdom of Israel, and the mixed race was called Samaritans. Next God allowed the Babylonians the rulers of the world. They took the Southern kingdom of Judah captives and took them to Babylon and settled them there, and brought other races from elsewhere and settled them in Judah. Next God made the Persians the rulers of the world, and Cyrus allowed the Jews to come back to Judah and settle there. Romans were the rulers of the world next. In AD 70 Titus destroyed the third temple built by Herod the Great, and Jews were scattered all over the world to be a blessing for others, to literally fulfill the prophecy to Abraham, “Thou shall be a blessing”. Before that Christ was born in the family of Abraham and spiritually all the cultures of the world are blessed with the faith in Christ for victory over death, and for eternal life. After the Romans God allowed the children of Ishmael, Abraham’s son through Hagar the Egyptian maid to be rulers of the world through first and second Caliphates.
Now you can see that God allowed different cultures to rule over others. Did God give the land to the Israelites to hold on to it for ever? The answer is No. If so, they wouldn’t have to live in distant places as slaves. So their argument that in Bible the boundaries of their land were such and such, and so we have a right to the land will not hold any water. Do you allow the Persians and Italians to go back to their old boundaries?
Now what claim the Palestinians have on the land they lived before? God in his mercy allowed their ancestors to live there for thousands of years while the Jews were evicted from there. They have no permanent right to this land. Land belong to God, and God can give it to any culture God wants, no matter how close one culture try to hold on to it.
This understanding will take the pride away from both groups, and help to untangle the emotions attached to the issue.
Now after thousands of years, God allowed the Jews to come back and settle in the land through evens in history. God is the author of history. The Palestinians and Jews are cousin brothers. The Palestinians are children of Abraham through Kethura and Ishmael. The only difference is that they are of two different religions.
What is the tradition of Abraham to resolve a conflict between him and his brother’s son Lot? Instead of fighting over the land and killing each other, Abraham was ready to make Lot happy and settle the issue. Both got their share of the land. They didn’t kill each other.
Abraham was of the noblest character. He stands way up for us to reach in his character. When the king of Sodom ask Abraham to keep all the plunder that he brought back after defeating the enemy kings, Abraham’s reply is strange. I will not take a string or sandal from it, lest one day you say that I enriched Abraham. Abraham had so much faith in God that his life was secure in God. Now insecurity is rampant everywhere. Even if the whole world is under control, still some are insecure and want more possessions and wealth. The root cause is a lack of faith in God and His provisions.
Palestinians need to settle the issue by negotiating with Israel with the understanding that it is God’s hand that allowed them to settle in the land. Israel needs to consider Palestinians as brothers and look to Abraham, their great Grandfather and his tradition to resolve this conflict.
If I have to sleep peacefully, I need to make sure that my neighbor is not hungry. Same way if I provoke my neighbor, I can loose my sleep.
The United States can take the initiative to compensate the Palestinians with the help of other nations. Make sure that their reasonable hopes and aspirations are fulfilled. Bless others to be blessed. Be a blessing to others for your generation to be blessed.
I like to conclude with a story my father told me when I was eight years old. This is a story familiar to Jews.
Ornan (Aravana of Bible) and his brother were doing joint farming. Wheat was harvested and divided equally on the threshing floor. Ornan’s brother went home to rest leaving his brother to watch for the wheat.
While his brother was gone, Ornan said to himself. ‘My brother is younger than me. He has more wives and children. Since he is very proud he will not accept if I offer a portion from my share of wheat to him’. Without anybody watching, Ornan took a portion of the wheat from his share and transferred it to his brother’s share.
Now, Ornan’s brother came back. Leaving him to watch over the wheat, Ornan went home. Ornan’s brother said to himself, ‘He is my elder brother. He has helped me on many occasions. If I give him back he will not take it’. Without anybody watching, Ornan’s brother took a portion of the wheat and transferred it to Ornan’s share.
Heaven was keenly watching this strange behavior- a moment Heaven and Earth, or the vertical and horizontal met together.
They started to move the wheat to their homes. After a while they noticed that the quantity of wheat was not coming down. When they remove wheat, the same amount was still left there. Now they were forced to reveal what happened, and the wheat stopped multiplying.
It is here that Psalms 133 is fulfilled. “It is very good and pleasant when kindred live together in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life forevermore”.
It was on this threshing floor that the first temple that Solomon built. In the book of Chronicles it is recorded that King David took a census of the people from his own pride to show his majesty. 70,000 people perished. David saw the angel of God standing on the threshing floor of Ornan (Aravana) the Jebusite with drawn out sword against Jerusalem.
Prophet Gad approached David, and asked him to build an altar on the threshing floor of Ornan. David bought the land from Ornan and built an altar there and sacrificed to the Lord and worshiped. Solomon built the first temple on this threshing floor. It is believed that this is the spot on Mount Moriah that Abraham sacrificed his son Isaac. God pointed the Holy land to David to build the temple.
Hope one day the Israelites and Palestinians will come to terms, and live in peace as brothers. Skill in action is in removing the emotions from the issue. Then things can be viewed in its right perspective.
Ninan Mathullah is a graduate of The University of Texas, Houston, in Health Sciences, and holds a Masters Degree (Industrial Fisheries) from University of Cochin, in Science. Currently he is working as a Microbiologist in Public Health in Houston, Texas. He is the Founding President of Community Association for Public Service (CAPS), a growing Community and charitable organization in Houston. He is married with wife Mercy and children, Jerry and Joel. You can find his website at http://www.bvpublishing.org/