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The Biblical Roots of the Palestinian Problem

Jehovah’s Promise

The Zionist Jews claim that Jehovah promised the whole Land of Palestine exclusively to them, as they are the Children of Abraham. The relevant scriptural verses are:

“Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” (Genesis 12: 1-2)

“And he said unto him, I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.” (Genesis 15:7)

“And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.” (Genesis 17: 8-9)

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Chiefly relying on a twisted interpretation of the above verses in their scripture, the Zionists claim that God’s eternal covenant with Abraham and his descendants means that Israel must have undivided political sovereignty over all the land mentioned there, which according to them stretches from the Nile in Egypt to the Euphrates in Iraq.

In fact, this Zionist claim is erroneous from the Bible’s own point of view, because God’s covenant was given to Abraham and to all his descendants; not merely to Israel.

Abraham is ‘the father of many nations’, not only one nation as can be seen from the following:

“Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you.” (Genesis 17:3-6)

We know that the Bible speaks of Abraham’s two sons: His firstborn was Ishmael, and the second was Isaac. The Arabs are the children of Ishmael and the Jews are the children of Isaac. The mother of Abraham’s son Ishmael was Hajar the Egyptian, who had received a covenant promise:

“I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.” (Genesis 16:9-10)

“Those descendants were Arabs, settling in Arab territory.” (Genesis 25:13-18)

But the Zionists argue that only the children of Isaac deserve to live in the Land promised to the Children of Abraham because Ishmael’s mother Hajar was only a handmaiden of Sarah, so (they say) her children have no right to their homeland.

Sarah was childless for many years. She gave her handmaiden Hagar to Abraham so he could have children, and Hagar bore Ishmael. At the age of ninety, Sarah was told she would give birth and she laughed because she thought she was too old to have children. Sarah gave birth to Isaac (Yitzhak). Later Sarah drove Hagar and Ishmael away, saying “the son of this hand-maiden will not inherit together with my son, Yitzchak.” (Bereshit 21:10)

The above claim of Zionism is deliberately aimed at denying their Arab brethren any right to the land of their birth. It is interesting to see how the architects and believers in Zionism twist the divine command to establish their unreasonable claim.

For this, they blatantly refuse to honor this law in the Torah:

“If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have borne him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated: then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn: but he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.” (Deuteronomy 21: 15-17)

It is obvious here that the status of the mother of the firstborn does not in any way disqualify him from inheriting his rights (which is the double of what the other son gets, according to this provision) from his father.

But the Jews as well as some sects of Christians sideline this simple rule of the Torah, just for denying the Palestinians the right to the land  which God gave them as well as to their brethren, the Children of Isaac (or Children of Israel).

The Jews believed in the superiority of their race, because they thought that their status as the ‘Chosen People of God’ could mean nothing else.

The Quran, though it has sometimes been criticized by some Jews as anti-Semitic, very clearly states that the Children of Israel are the Chosen People of God.

But the Quran clearly denies the claim that this means that God will consider the Jews as His favorites in derogation of others. Their special status only means that God chose them as the special carriers of His Message; for He chose from them a large number of prophets, for instance.

As a community of people, the Jews were unmindful of the mission entrusted with them, and compared to others they were very ‘casual’ in the matter of obedience to God and His prophets. (Exodus 32:1- 9)

The way the Jews treated their prophets could be understood from the experiences of those prophets, as described in the Old Testament of the Bible.

Muslims, and probably Christians too, would say that this was the reason why God made them undergo severe hardships again and again.

The point to be made here is that Jews, Christians and Muslims are all followers of the same religious tradition; and those in the Middle East irrespective of their religion are the Children of Abraham, whether through Ishmael or Isaac. Neither the Jew, nor the Christian nor the Muslim can deny this, since it is clearly stated in their respective scriptures.

One may find in this a ray of hope for the settlement of the Middle East crisis. But of course, when the politics of racial or tribal pride or what could be crudely put as “herd instinct” rules, things get worse and worse as it happens now.

The People, the Land and the Torah

It was in the 19th century, following a trend that began earlier in Europe, people around the world began to identify themselves as citizens, parts of a ‘nation-state’ project, and to demand national rights. At this time, the Jews living as citizens of different countries for centuries could have remained in their respective countries, as the Christians and Muslims were doing. But two factors conspired against this.

One, their consciousness of the Promised Land to which the Jewish fundamentalists had been calling all Jews to return; and two, the bitterness they felt against the lands where they had been treated as outcasts so far. (Karen Armstrong, The Battle for God, Harper Collins, London, 2001, p. 150)

The Zionist movement began in 1882, with the intention of recovering what they thought to be the land ‘exclusively’ promised to the Jews by God. The extremists among them believed that they could live as real Jews only if they practiced all the laws in the Torah. This would be possible ‘only’ if they returned to the Promised Land; because otherwise the laws regarding farming and settlement, and politics and government could not be observed, for instance. (Karen Armstrong, The Battle for God, p. 258)

The question that comes to the fore here is whether God actually wants us humans to uphold values of justice and truth in everything, while He supports His Chosen people to defy them in the matter of their unfortunate brethren.

Of course, the Jews have always been able to find precedents in their own history to support their unjust policies (for instance the Book of Joshua, where Jehovah is reported to have supported a very brutal war against the Gentiles, to take away their land, their property and their lives). (Joshua 10:25)

The Zionist movement identified Palestine as the place for their new nation and started a wave of immigration from Europe for settlement there.

At that time, Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire. According to Ottoman records, in 1878 there were 462.465 subject inhabitants of the Jerusalem, Nablus and Acre districts: 403.795 Muslims (including Druze), 43.659 Christians and 15.011 Jews.

The great majority of the Arabs (Muslims and Christians) lived in several hundred rural villages. Jaffa and Nablus were the largest and economically most important Arab towns.  (The Middle East Research and Information Project: Palestine, Israel and the Arab-Israeli Conflict)

Until the beginning of the 20th century, most Jews living in Palestine observed traditional, orthodox religious practices, spending their time studying religious texts.

Their attachment to the land was ‘religious’ rather than ‘national’, and they were not involved in the Zionist movement, which began in Europe and was brought to Palestine by immigrants.

Most of the Jews who immigrated from Europe lived a more secular lifestyle and were committed to the goals of creating a Jewish nation and building a modern, independent Jewish state.  Zionism, or Jewish nationalism “was influenced by nationalist ideology, and by colonial ideas about Europeans’ rights to claim and settle other parts of the world.”  (The Middle East Research and Information Project: Palestine, Israel and the Arab-Israeli Conflict)

But at the same time, the secular Zionists were cunning enough to make use of the religious fervor of the fundamentalists. For fundamentalist Jews, the land and the people and the Torah formed a triad, each of which is holy. They considered it a religious duty to annex and occupy all the Promised Land (the borders of which God alone knows), no matter who owns it now. (The Middle East Research and Information Project: Palestine, Israel and the Arab-Israeli Conflict)

They believe that in this effort Jehovah is with them, as He was with Joshua. For this reason, to the Israelis world criticisms against their atrocities, or the UN resolutions against occupation of Arab lands, do not matter, whatsoever.

Is not it a paradox that the Jews who were the victims of a racial holocaust are now inflicting a similar racial holocaust on the Palestinians? When the Zionist leaders accuse the Palestinian people of religious fundamentalism and terrorism, the whole of “the civilized world” believe them.

But really, who could be more fundamentalist or more terrorist than the Zionists who openly encroach on Arab lands, demolish Arab homes, kill Arab men, women and children in the name of Jehovah?

(This article is from Reading Islam’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.)

About Professor Shahul Hameed
Professor Shahul Hameed is an Islamic consultant. He also held the position of the President of the Kerala Islamic Mission, Calicut, India. He is the author of three books on Islam published in the Malayalam language. His books are on comparative religion, the status of women, and science and human values.