Rev Dr Clifford Hill

We’re seeing the latest round of a 3,500 year old family dispute – but while  the Arabs could solve the land problem, only God can heal the hurts.

THE ISRAELI/PALESTINIAN CONFLICT is guaranteed to divide public opinion.  Sadly, it was ever so! Historically, it is a family feud that goes back more than 3500 years, to the dispute between the two sons of Abraham – Ishmael and Isaac – who were half-brothers and fathers of the Arabs and Israelites.

It is tragic that this family dispute has lasted so long and caused so much violence and death. It probably does not help to go back to the origins in antiquity but at least it is essential to take note of the modern history.

Churchill’s work

At the end of the First World War the League of Nations gave Britain a mandate to govern Palestine, while Syria and Lebanon were given to France. Palestine included Transjordan which today is the independent state of Jordan.

In the whole of Palestine there were only 600,000 Arabs and Winston Churchill, as Colonial Secretary responsible for the region, said that it could easily absorb 5 million Jews who would “develop and cultivate the region that is now barren and make it fertile… creating new jobs and new wealth that will benefit the whole community.”

Cairo 1921

At a conference in Cairo in 1921 Churchill said, “It is manifestly right that the scattered Jews should have a national centre and a national home to be reunited and where else but in Palestine with which for 3000 years they have been intimately and profoundly associated? We think it will be good for the world, good for the Jews, good for the British Empire, but also good for the Arabs who dwell in Palestine and we intend it to be so; they shall share in the benefits and progress of Zionism.”

Arab opposition

Originally it was British Government policy that the whole of Palestine, both east and west of the Jordan, should be given to the Jews, but after meeting prolonged Arab opposition it was agreed that Transjordan would be for the Palestinians and the land west of the River Jordan would be a homeland for the Jews. Even this was fiercely opposed by the Arabs although privately they were keen to sell
their land to the Jews at inflated prices, as many of them did.

Muslim division

The tragedy of the Middle East lies in the divisions among the Arabs themselves as is seen in the civil war in Syria and in Iraq where Sunni and Shia Muslims continue to slaughter one another mercilessly. If the Arabs were willing to use their vast oil wealth and their huge empty land space they could benefit their fellow Muslims, the Palestinians, and easily solve the problem of Gaza. Instead, they rely upon America to give half $1 billion a year to support the Palestinians, who are crammed into a tiny piece of land for political purposes in order to embarrass Israel. The Arabs mercilessly use the Palestinians as pawns in their political game with its intention of destroying Israel.

Eye for eye

The only real solution is for both Jews and Arabs to abandon their policy of retribution and follow the teaching of Jesus who said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth’. But I tell you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’.” Jesus turned upside down the values of the world – of retribution and hatred – that lead to violence and atrocities such as those engulfing the world today.

Change of mindset

St Paul had a total change of mindset after meeting Jesus. He longed to see the day when Jew and Arab would be reconciled through Jesus destroying the “dividing wall of hostility”. This is slowly happening today. Reports from all over the Middle East show that thousands of Muslims are having ‘revelations’ of Jesus and becoming secret believers. The day will surely come when Paul’s vision will become reality. It is surely the only hope of peace!