Intifada: A Special Report
Intifada—the word carries the ring of a ricocheting bullet. It translates to English as uprising, the symbol of Arab rebellion against Israeli rule. To Ishmael’s children, it is a dream word, a word pregnant with visions of an Arab mini-state. For their Israeli cousins, it has an ominous, nightmare quality—it sounds like death and destruction.
Roots of the two-year struggle stem from success and design. Israel’s astonishing military victories over Arab states in 1948 and 1967 brought a million and a half Palestinians under Israeli rule. Arabs, with the eventual exception of Egypt, responded with a blanket refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist, negotiate for peace or territory, and, tragically for their own people, resettle dispossessed families. Instead, they stuffed them into squalid refugee camps to eke out equally squalid lives. It was a program designed to keep the Palestinian issue smoldering before the international community. This was done at the expense of a full generation of Arabs who were the hapless pawns of a policy which Jew and Arab knew would one day explode. After 40 years, it did.
What is so often ignored in the world press, but a fact that does figure into the picture, is Israel’s assimilation of an equal number of displaced people following the rebirth of the modern state of Israel in 1948. While tiny Israel settled Jews leaving Arab states, Muslim nations, with vast stretches of unpopulated land, refused to do the same for their own people.
The People Tragedy
Impaled upon unsettled and, for the time being, unsolvable issues are suffering people whose physical and emotional agony is played out on our television screens night after night. Colonel Higgins’ body slowly twisting at the end of a rope, pleading hostages, dead children, and bodies crushed beneath buses scream at us all. At this level, the problem is not American, Israeli or Arab; it is fundamentally people who are bleeding. The blood all looks the same.
In such situations, torn emotions demand immediate solutions. Unfortunately, decisions made under emotional duress often create more problems than they solve. There is no clearer case in point than that being played out in Israel today.
A watching world is looking at the bloodshed in the Middle East and crying, “Peace, peace.” But, emotions aside, one must ask a question which raises the ire of inept politicians and media-forged public opinion: Peace on whose terms and at what price?
Arafat’s Peace of Saladin
Israelis are more than a bit skeptical about PLO Chairman Yassir Arafat’s December 1988 announcement of “conversion” to the belief that the Jews can have a legitimate state in the Middle East. Such skepticism irritates many politicians and media opinion makers in the Western world. Israel, in their view, should take people at their word for a change and stop blocking progress toward peace. Obviously, most of these individuals have not themselves listened to the chairman’s post-repentance statements. A notable exception is Mortimer B. Zuckerman, Editor in Chief of U.S. News & World Report. Commenting on the PLO’s rejection of Israeli Prime Minister Shamir’s offer of free elections, he accused Arafat of throwing away a valuable key to peace: “It [the PLO] has thrown away all the keys offered in four decades because it has a higher priority than a better life for the Palestinians. That is the destruction of Israel.”
Conversation and conduct by Chairman Arafat and his colleagues seem to bear out Zuckerman’s words.
“It was the new Arafat, again, who recently said he is not seeking the peace of compromise, but the peace of Saladin—an unmistakable code in the Arab world since Saladin is the Moslem warrior who overcame the Crusaders, concluded an armistice and then attacked them again until they were driven out.”
The PLO leader outlined his peace plan with Israel in an interview with the German magazine Der Speigel. He called for Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 borders, a corridor through Israeli territory linking the West Bank and Gaza, and the right of Palestinians to maintain an army. The PLO is also asserting the “nonnegotiable right” of all Palestinians to reclaim former residences throughout Israel proper. Fuse these with other nonnegotiable demands, such as sovereignty over Jerusalem, and one can draw his own conclusions about PLO intentions.
Arafat’s second in command, Salah Khalaf, was quoted in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Siyassi: “The establishment of a Palestinian state in any part of Palestine has as its goal the establishment of a Palestinian state in all of Palestine.”
The burning question at issue, therefore, is not one of Palestinian self-determination—a right to run their own lives and affairs on the West Bank and in the Gaza. Statehood, without question, would only provide a staging area for the battle to destroy the state of Israel.
Moshe Dayan stated Israel’s position clearly when he acknowledged the Palestinians’ right to determine their own future, “but they do not have the right to determine Israel’s future.”
Brother Against Brother
A disquieting development on the West Bank and Gaza is increasing violence between Arabs themselves—a situation which, if allowed to go unchecked, has the potential of creating another Lebanon.
Yassir Arafat contributed to sanctioned fratricide when he threatened to kill one of the West Bank’s most respected Arab citizens. When Elias Frieg, Mayor of Bethlehem, proposed a one-year truce in the Intifada, Arafat responded with a death threat: “Any Palestinian who proposes an end to the Intifada exposes himself to the bullets of his own people and endangers his own life. The PLO will know how to deal with him.” Arafat offered his own services: “ … I will give them ten bullets in the chest.” Two ugly sides of this problem have surfaced during the grueling months of the uprising. First, there is the calculated decimation of young Palestinians who are counseled to confront Israeli troops with stones, sticks, and Molotov cocktails. PLO orchestrators of the turmoil know full well that such action will inevitably result in serious casualties among the youths involved. Apparently, recording these tragedies before Western news cameras overrides consideration for those being sacrificed.
Even more macabre are the deliberate executions being carried out against people who are suspected of collaboration with Israel. “A recent Palestinian underground leaflet warned that the killing of Palestinians by other Palestinians is getting out of hand. At least 67 have been slain by fellow Arabs since December, 1987. Forty such killings have taken place in the past three months (June-August 1989). Israeli officials claim 48 percent of 1,403 beatings, stabbings, and attacks on property by Arabs during the first half of 1989 were directed against Palestinian, not Israeli targets” (U.S. News & World Report, August 21, 1989). There is good reason to fear that this type of activity will bring on a wave of chaotic, Lebanon-style violence that no one can control.
Frustration with the interminable many problems/no solution situation in the Mid East is straining the patience of a world that is tired of the whole affair. American interest in events in the region becomes acute when the hostage issue, as in the Colonel Higgins affair, is brought back to center stage by the media. Incomprehensibly, adverse American reaction is directed, not primarily at the terrorists who cage and mutilate Americans, but at our Israeli friends who are attempting to help do something about it. While we know public opinion is as unstable as sand shifting before the tides, it is disconcerting to witness the perceptible shift away from support for Israel.
When Israel snatched the Hizballah leader, Sheik Obeid, as a bargaining weapon in their attempt to gain the release of three of their soldiers, Hizballah retaliated by showing Colonel Higgins’ body. Israel was fingered as the culprit, and favorable public opinion toward our ally fell dramatically. According to a Time/CNN poll taken on August 3, 1989, 53 percent of those questioned felt Israel went too far in taking Obeid as a hostage.
Consequently, Israelis feel increasingly isolated and frustrated in their relentless effort to stay alive in the Middle East. Their frustration is justified because virtually all competent observers would agree that, at this point, a final solution to the problem is humanly impossible. Peace, when it does come, will much more likely be enforced than negotiated. The question is, Who will bring peace, and how will it be imposed?
A Tribulation Preview
Students of biblical prophecy are not surprised by the rampant chaos in the Mid East which is so dramatically impacting Israel and flowing out to the rest of the world. If we are indeed in the last days of the last days, these events certainly represent the crescendo of wrath and destruction that will come full circle during the “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7). And while we understand that the Tribulation period will not be officially initiated until the Church is removed from the scene, one can see clearly in contemporary events a microcosm of the frustration which will ultimately cause Israel’s turning to her Messiah.
Jewry’s seven-year Tribulation trauma will consummate in at least three manifestations.
Universal Repudiation: Ganging up on Israel, which has been a favorite pastime in the United Nations for decades, will, under Antichrist’s direction, come to a dreadful climax. The day to “gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle” (Zech. 14:2) will mark the terminal point on the march toward Armageddon.
No Options Left: Beleaguered Israel will search in vain for comfort and once again raise the ancient cry, “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me” (Lam. 1:12).
Prophetic projections point, like a well-barbed arrow, toward the last holocaust to be launched against Israel and Jewry announced in Revelation 12. Israel will, in the most manifest way, be a nation fresh out of human options.
Nowhere to Look But Up: God’s star on Jewry’s darkening horizon will be the return of the Messiah (Rev. 19:11–16) as shield and defender of the chosen people. “Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle” (Zech. 14:3). His going forth is precipitated by the surviving national remnant’s (Zech 13:89) turning to God by “look[ing] upon me whom they have pierced, and mourn[ing] for him, as one mourneth for his only son” (Zech. 12:10). That glorious day will be the most “blessed” of all days in Jewry’s history. The psalmist declares it: “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the [Messiah] LORD (PS. 118:26). Jesus clarified it: “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say,
Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Mt. 23:38–39).
These crucial elements on Israel’s national road to spiritual recovery are in symbolic evidence today.
We need not comment at length on the already obvious fact that Israel is more isolated today than at any time in her modern history. Sad to say, since the Intifada, traces of resurgent anti-Semitism are being found even in the evangelical community.
At the moment, America is committed to Israel as an ally. However, the balance is perceptibly shifting toward more reliance on the Western European community; that is, the very entity which will produce the Antichrist, betray peace agreements with Israel, and launch the last holocaust.
Clearly, Israel is running out of options. In their current situation they cannot give the PLO the statehood they are demanding—it would mean potential national suicide. Those Palestinians who could deal with Israel are being intimidated or murdered by the militants. Army units cannot stay in the territories indefinitely, and the rest of the world seems absolutely helpless to do anything to solve the problem. In the meantime, the killing goes on.
The final option, and it is Israel’s new option for these last days, is the looking up option. Intriguingly, as one scans the biblical prophetic panorama of the nation Israel, he becomes aware that an orderly process is in motion—one running from broad to narrow.
When Israel’s ancient leadership said “No!” to Jesus as Messiah and Savior, they saw their national options as very broad. Israel would seek another messianic alternative. However, over nearly two millennia now, those options have been systematically reduced until they have very nearly been eliminated. Irrevocably, Jehovah is directing the nation down the path to repentance.
When you think about it, this is precisely the process every individual goes through on his or her way to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
For Israelis today, it is the individual option; for Israel tomorrow, it will be the national reconciliation option.
Unmistakably, a remnant (small as it may be) of Israelis, who have seen personal options wither, are opening up to a witness of life in Christ. For them, the dream of a perpetual safe haven in a Jewish homeland has faded. Armies and alliances have not brought fulfilling solutions; the quest, therefore, is how to somehow find personal peace in spite of the carnage surrounding them.
Evidence of this is found particularly among young people, the Sabra generation born since the state became a reality in 1948.
This generation did not live through the horrors of the Holocaust in Hitler’s Europe. They have heard about it and all of those stern warnings about what “Christians” did to their relatives. But that is not the side this generation has seen of Christians. Muslims have pointed guns and knives at them throughout their lives. Muslims launched the Katusha rockets that forced them to huddle in shelters through fitful nights. Muslims put, bombs beneath fruit stands where their parents shopped. Muslims killed innocent people who rode buses.
Christian believers, on the other hand, have streamed into Israel by the millions with arms outstretched in love and with oaths of allegiance to the people and the nation. Christians have contributed, comforted, counseled, and exhibited solidarity with the people of the Book.
Consequently, there is a door of opportunity to share the Messiah opened, we believe, as never since the first century. Now is not the time for Christians to become indifferent, cynical, detached, or manipulated by anti-Jewish/Israeli forces. It is a time to put feet to our prayers for “the peace of Jerusalem” (Ps. 122:6) and move to rescue the remnant while the opportunity is before us.