January 5, 2009

The Middle East Ablaze Again
by Pastor George Van Alstine

After smoldering for a few years, The Palestine-Israeli conflict has burst into flame again. Each time this happens, it seems more hopeless to me. Both of these groups are fighting for their survival as a people. Israelis have no other homeland, nor do the Palestinians. A “two-states” solution seems the only way out, but this would take major concessions on both sides, and there seems to be less willingness to bend than there was a decade ago. So they kill each other.

We should remind ourselves that this is not just “their problem.” Western nations helped shape the impossible situation by decisions made as a result of two World Wars. In the early twentieth century, politically weak Arab territories were artificially carved up and controlled by European and American interests concerned only with exploiting the area’s oil reserves. Meanwhile, anti-Jewish sentiments were an important factor behind the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. It was thought that if Jews had their own homeland there would be large-scale emigration from European nations whose people were jealous of Jewish intellectual and financial success. Jews and Palestinians were often merely pawns in this process.

The tendency of Christians to see literal fulfillment of Biblical prophecy in these modern Middle East events has often clouded the ethical issues raised by the conflict. Sometimes actions have been justified or condemned depending on their seeming fulfillment of prophecies, rather than on the basis of simple right and wrong. I personally reject this approach as contrary to God’s consistent call for justice, repeatedly recorded in the Bible.

So, we are challenged to pray for wisdom as we seek to influence our government’s position. This is a very delicate issue which will not be resolved with guns and tanks. Meanwhile, we should be praying for all the innocent families, whether they are Christian or Jewish or Muslim, who are the most impacted by the political and military tug of war. May our hearts go out to them through our daily prayer support.