Shalom from Tel Aviv!
Today Arabs throughout the world call themselves Palestinians if they were born anywhere in the Holy Land, or if their father or grandfather or even great-grandfather was born there. This includes Christians, Arabs and even born-again Christian Arabs.
When we moved to Israel in October 1967, immediately after the Six-Day War, we had quite a bit of contact with the Arab population of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. I spent more than a year in Ulpan (Hebrew Language School) with a number of upper class Arab young people -- including the son of one of the most famous Arab martyrs of 1948 -- who also wanted to learn Hebrew.
We never heard any of these Arabs call themselves Palestinians. Some referred to themselves as Jordanians (as Jordan ruled over the West Bank from 1948-1967). Most called themselves after their religious identity -- Moslem Arabs or Christian (meaning nominal) Arabs or Jerusalemite Arabs. But I do not recall one reference to themselves as Palestinians. It was only in the middle 1970's when the PLO began to become a dominating force, using the name over and over, that local Arabs began to identify themselves as Palestinian Arabs.
ARAB EQUALS MOSLEM
One of the problems that exists among Arabs is that an Arab of the minority Christian religion is looked down upon by the Moslem majority. Even though the Christian is one in name only, being born into, say a Greek Orthodox or Roman Catholic family, he is made to feel somehow less Arab -- the "real" Arab being a Moslem Arab.
Just as Messianic Jews have had to fight to be identified as part of the Jewish community, so the Christian Arab has had to struggle to be fully accepted as an Arab.
Somehow I believe the temptation for a believing Arab to latch onto a Palestinian identity has been strong because it helps the Christian Arab to prove his Arab loyalty. In the same way a Messianic Jew who is an Israeli gives a powerful witness to his Jewishness and that he is a loyal son of his people.
The problem for any Arab believer, of course, is that the nature of the Palestinian movement is incompatible with the straight forward message of the Bible concerning Israel. Yet, almost all Arabs in Israel, including Christian Arabs, see the PLO as the Palestinians' only legitimate representative.
Let us examine the PLO's express purposes and goals found in its charter. But first we quote a letter to the editor that appeared in the Jerusalem Post on March 27, 1988, written by a resident of Jerusalem.
"Sir, -- Why say 'no' to the PLO? Professor Gerald Blidstein asks this question and observes correctly that the often repeated assertion (by spokesmen for both major political blocs) that we cannot negotiate with murderers and terrorists cannot be the real reason. In today's world, everyone unfortunately talks to murderers and so do we. Surely, Hussein and Assad have lots of murders to answer for and what was Sadat if not a former sympathizer of Nazi Germany?
"Blidstein, after considering (and dismissing) a number of reasons sometimes given for the ban on the PLO; suggests that what is basically at issue is the fear, shared by America, that Arafat might set up a Communist state, a Russian satellite, in the parts of Palestine which he might come to rule. And this, he plausibly suggests, is a problem that could be rationally discussed and the solution for which would not be beyond the power of wise statesmanship! Would it were so. The trouble is that this too is not the real issue."
THE PLO EXISTS TO FRUSTRATE THE NATIONAL LIBERATION OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE
"The real problem lies in the very nature of the PLO. If there ever was a smoke-screen, it is that which disguises the PLO as a movement for national liberation when it is in its essence a movement set up to frustrate the national liberation of another people. The denial of the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state is the most basic proposition in the charter adopted by that organization. No moral, social or ideological content is provided for the term "liberation of Palestine" other than "the elimination of Zionism." Moreover, it is a carefully drawn-up document, several times reaffirmed, and by no means to be dismissed as mere rhetoric. Jews made that mistake with regard to Hitler's Mein Kampf: we would be guilty of criminal self-deception if we made the same mistake again.
"And herein lies the difference between the PLO and the established Arab states of the region. They too would like to see Israel eliminated and have even gone to war from time to time to try to bring this about. But they have other vital, national interests which frequently lead them to set aside this aim, at least in the short term, and even to treat with Israel in public or less public fashion. The PLO has no other more vital interest and responsibility than the elimination of Israel. That is the reason for its existence.
"My friends in the peace camp tend to see the PLO as a "liberation movement" on the analogy of other national liberation movements in the Third World and elsewhere. According to this perception, the PLO simply aspires to national self-respect for its people and would be content with sovereignty in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, side by side with a Jewish state in other parts of Western Palestine. This is surely a case of wishful thinking. Neither the PLO nor any other Palestinian group attempted to set up a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, when these territories were under Arab control in the years before the 1967 Six Day War. The PLO effort was devoted, then as now, not to giving creative expression to the national identity of the Palestinian, but to destroying the State of Israel…
"The PLO reveals an even more striking anomaly when its aims are set beside those of other genuine liberation movements. There is a strong hint in article 12 of the Palestine Charter that once the national struggle has been successfully concluded (i.e. Israel has been eliminated) their separate Palestinian identity might be safely relinquished: 'The Palestinian people believe in Arab unity. In order to contribute their share toward the attainment of that objective, however, they must at the present stage of their struggle, safeguard their Palestinian identity and oppose any plan that may dissolve or impair it.'
"The elimination of Israel is thus not the means for restoring and promoting the national identity of the Palestinian people. It is rather the other way round: the Palestinian people need their Palestinian identity in order to destroy Israel. When this aim has been achieved, the Palestinian people might well disappear and merge itself in the larger Arab collectivity."
LAND FOR "PEACE"
"Can anyone not carried away by a pseudo-Messianic dream of 'peace in our time' really believe that they would not continue to pursue the dissolution of the Jewish state from any foothold they acquired in the West Bank or Gaza? Or that the surrounding Arab states would not, secretly or less secretly, support them? Will not the cry go up immediately for the restoration of Arab rights in Jaffa, Ramle and Safad (to say nothing of East and West Jerusalem)? After all, it is from there, not from Nablus or Hebron, that the Palestinian refugees still in camps in Gaza and elsewhere, originated. And they are the PLO’s real constituency.
"If and when the katyushas begin to land in Israel from the new Palestinian state, as they do from Lebanon, how shall we react? Shall we feel free to go to war again and thus provoke universal condemnation of Israel as the aggressor? On the other hand, shall we have any alternative? Paradoxically, the Peace Now camp may bring about the precise opposite of what they intend -- not peace, but war."
PALESTINIAN NATIONAL CHARTER
Next, we will quote sample articles directly from The Palestinian National Charter which is the PLO's constitution drawn up in July, 1968.
1. "Palestine is the homeland of the Arab Palestinian people; it is an indivisible part of the Arab homeland and the Palestinian people are an integral part of the Arab nation.
2. "Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit…
15. "The liberation of Palestine, from an Arab viewpoint, 'is a national duty and it attempts to repel the Zionist and imperialist aggression against the Arab homeland, and aims at the elimination of Zionism in Palestine…
19. "The partition of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of the state of Israel are entirely illegal, regardless of the passage of time, because they were contrary to the will of the Palestinian people and to their natural right in their homeland, and inconsistent with the principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations, particularly the right to self-determination…
20. "The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine, and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void. Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong.
21. "The Arab Palestinian people, expressing themselves by the armed Palestinian revolution, reject all solutions which are substitutes for the total liberation of Palestine and reject all proposals aiming at the liquidation of the Palestinian problem...
22. "Since the liberation of Palestine will destroy the Zionist and imperialist presence and will contribute to the establishment of peace in the Middle East, the Palestinian people look for the support of all the progressive and peaceful forces and urge them all, irrespective of their affiliations and beliefs, to offer the Palestinian people all aid and support in their just struggle for the liberation of their homeland…"
WHAT ABOUT DIALOGUE BETWEEN BELIEVERS?
There are great problems to overcome then, if a Messianic Jewish Israeli wishes to have dialogue with a Palestinian-Arab Christian. It is almost certain that the Arab will sympathize, if not endorse, the PLO and by implication that for which it stands.
Thus, the Palestinian-Arab Christians with few exceptions have not been able to escape the quicksand of Arab sentiment to eliminate Israel.
Yet, every opportunity must be taken to show Christian Arabs the benefits of accepting Israel's right to be a state.
The promise to Abraham was, "I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse" (Gen. 12:3). Therefore a nation who is actively seeking Israel's destruction is surely under a curse. Any group of people or individual within the nation who is on the side of such goals will also be under a curse.
It is no accident that there is virtually no revival going on among the Moslem Arabs in nations whose goal is to destroy Israel -- not in Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, Saudia Arabia, etc. If one Moslem turns to the Lord in these nations, it makes news among believers.
But among Moslems who are living in nations not actively fighting Israel and thus the average citizen is not taught anti-Semitism or anti-Zionism, there have been revivals where thousands of Moslems have been saved -- witness Indonesia, Pakistan, South Africa and Nigeria.
ISRAELI MOSLEM ARABS BEING SAVED
An authority for what is going on spiritually among Moslems, said that percentage-wise more Moslems had been saved in Israel than any place else in the world. (We are now speaking of Israeli-Arab Moslems, and not those from Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Many Israeli Arabs are solid friends of Israel.)
For the born-again Arabs' own sake then, he must be shown from the Scriptures that he is losing the great blessing that God has for him, unless he will accept the Biblical plan that God has for Israel.
As born-again Arabs break through into Abraham's blessing by accepting the God appointed boundaries of Israel, they can act as preserving salt and bring revival to their country, even though their own nation desires to destroy Israel.
Interestingly, there are signs of revival in Egypt, a nation who has at least a cold peace with Israel. And we hear of Egyptian believers to whom God has given a love for Israel.
There were Moslems being saved in Iran while the Shah was ruler. We are not advocating his policies. However, for his own reasons, he maintained a positive relationship with Israel. Since Khomeni took over, the revival is dead.
Furthermore, the Arab believer must be made to take a realistic view of his own future. If he were to live in any kind of Palestinian State, with someone like Arafat as the head, the Christian Arab would lose his freedom to work among Moslems, in order to bring them to the Lord. This is already the case in other Arab countries of today. In most Arab nations such a believer would receive the death sentence by hanging or beheading. Would he really prefer to live in such a state in Judea or Samaria, or the whole of "Palestine"?
The fact is that Christian Arabs who comprise approximately 15% of all Arabs in Israel, Judea, Samaria and Gaza have more freedom to preach the Gospel than in any Arab country in the world.
We must pray that Arab believers will be courageous and continue to reach out past the nominal Christian population, into the teeming Moslem masses. (Most Arab governments do not mind if nominal Christians are brought to a born-again experience. But beware of preaching to a Moslem!)
There are other aspects of the Israeli-Arab conflict that we have not yet touched on such as how does an Israeli relate to Israeli politics which are not consistent with Scripture, or how to scripturally combat Replacement theology (the Church replaces Israel). We shall cover these issues in future newsletters.
OUR PART TOGETHER
In this month of June we continue God's work full throttle. As you receive this letter, we will have just finished the Shavuot '88 Messianic Jewish Conference in Jerusalem. We are expecting over 1000 participants. Many of the leaders of the Messianic Jewish Movement from North America are coming and seven congregational leaders here in Israel comprised the spiritual leadership committee of the conference. The imminent conference has already created much excitement and anticipation throughout the country.
Furthermore, another day in the Supreme Court for Beresford vs. Israeli Government court case and perhaps Ari Sorko-Ram vs. Israeli Army will have taken place. Through these civil rights court cases we are fighting for freedom of religion for Messianic Jews in Israel.
Just as we must continue day in and day out to faithfully serve our Lord, we look to you, day in and day out, to serve with us by your offerings and prayers for our people.
Then the One whose Name is Faithful, who watches and records, day by day, will reward us all on THAT DAY.
In our Messiah,
Ari & Shira Sorko-Ram