Israel and Gaza

Introduction

On October 7th 2023, Hamas terrorists launched a violent attack on Israel, killing more than 1000 civilians and taking more than 200 people as hostages, including women and children. They also tortured, raped and burnt many women and vowed that they would repeat October 7th as soon as they were able.

Israel retaliated violently and is now being widely accused of genocide, with huge pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel and anti-Semitic demonstrations all over the world.

In this article I want to look at the Biblical, historical and other aspects of the situation.

Bible position

The Bible says that the Jews are God’s chosen people. God spoke these words to Moses: “You are a people holy to YHWH your God. YHWH your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession” (Deut 7:6).

The Bible also says that the followers of Jesus, in a different sense, are the chosen people of God: “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession” (1 Peter 2:9).

The Bible is also absolutely clear on the ownership of the land of Israel.

In Gen 17:8, God plainly said to Abraham, “to you and your future offspring I will give the land where you are residing - all the land of Canaan - as an eternal possession, and I will be their God.”

In Gen 26:3, God renewed this promise to Isaac the son of Abraham: “Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father.”

In Gen 28:13, God made a similar promise to Jacob the son of Isaac: “And behold, YHWH stood above it and said, ‘I am YHWH, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring’.”

Moses led the Israelites from Egypt to the borders of the land of Canaan. Before he died, he prophesied that the Israelites would sin against God and be driven out of the land, but that they would eventually return and occupy it for ever.

“YHWH your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where YHWH your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there YHWH your God will gather you, and from there he will take you. And YHWH your God will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed, that you may possess it. And he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers.” (Deut 30:3-5).

Joshua led the Israelites into the promised land which they then conquered and occupied.

What were the boundaries of this land of Canaan? Did they include the modern Gaza and what is now called the West Bank? The answer is a clear “yes”. The boundaries of Canaan were at least “from the river (Jordan) to the sea (Mediterranean)” (as many people chant these days) – and much further south than Gaza. (For full details see Borders of the Land of Canaan.)

For believers in the Bible the position is clear: God has given the land of Israel to the Jewish people as an “everlasting possession”.

Jewish History

From the time of Joshua, the Israelites and later the Jews were the inhabitants of the land of Israel. The Roman general Pompey conquered Israel in 63 BC and the Romans occupied the land during the time of Jesus. The Jews had three wars of rebellion against the Romans from 66 AD to 135 when they were finally defeated.

The last war ran from 132 to 135 and is known as the Bar Kochba rebellion. Around 500 thousand Jews were killed in this war. 100 thousand or more Jews were sold into slavery. Many Jews were deported to Egypt and other countries. However, a small Jewish presence continued in the land, mainly in the Galilee area. All Jews were banned from living in Jerusalem.

From 1517 till 1918, the whole area which now comprises Israel, Gaza, the West bank, Jordan and Syria was part of the Turkish Empire. The inhabitants of the area were a mixture of Jews, Christians and Arabs. Turkey entered the war on Germany’s side and, of course, lost the war. The Turkish Empire was then broken up.

The area was then divided into Palestine, Jordan, Syria and other modern countries that previously did not exist. Britain was given a temporary mandate for Palestine and Jordan, while France was given a mandate over Syria.

1948 was a critical year. Britain handed Palestine over to the Jews, who declared independence and renamed their country Israel. Several neighbouring Arab countries immediately attacked Israel with the intention of wiping Israel off the map, but miraculously Israel survived.

From Roman times, the Jewish people were scattered to every corner of the earth and amazingly, unlike any other people, they preserved their identity as Jews. Through the centuries they continued to look on Israel as their homeland. Every year at Passover they recited the words “ha shana ha ba be Yerushalaim” - “next year in Jerusalem”. Israel’s national anthem “ha-tikvah” - “The Hope” - tells the same story. “Our two-thousand year-old hope to be a free nation in our land, The Land of Zion and Jerusalem.”

After about 18 centuries in exile, the Jews have returned to Israel, the land of their fathers.

Palestine

The name Palestine is derived from the Hebrew name פְּלִשְׁתִּֽים (Pelishtim) meaning Philistines. After the Romans finally defeated Israel in about 136 AD, they changed the name of the country to Palestine to obliterate the memory of Israel and the Jews.

The Arabs who now live in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank call themselves Palestinians and aim to portray themselves as the original inhabitants of the area. They even claim that they are descendants of the Canaanite tribes that inhabited the land before Joshua and the Israelites conquered it. They only began to use the name Palestinian for themselves after the Six Day War in 1967. (See How the Palestinians got their name.)

The Arabs aim to portray the Jewish population of the area as European colonialists who have come and invaded their homeland.

Hamas

The name Hamas is an Arabic acronym meaning Islamic Resistance Movement. In Arabic the word hamas means zeal. In Hebrew hamas means violence.

The Hamas objective is to have a Palestinian state “from the river (Jordan) to the sea (Mediterranean)”. In other words, the complete destruction of Israel. Genocide! The very thing of which they now accuse Israel! They have vowed to repeat the October 7th attack as soon as they are able.

Hamas has been designated a terrorist organisation by USA, UK, Israel and many other countries. Hamas is strongly supported by Iran and various Islamic countries. Iran is its main provider of weapons.

Hamas took control of the Gaza strip by force in 2007 after defeating its rival Islamic group Fatah.

Gaza has received billions of dollars of international aid from America, Europe as well as from wealthy Muslim countries. They have used much of this aid to build 300 miles of underground tunnels in Gaza and places for their members to live. Some of their leaders live in great luxury in other countries. Other citizens of Gaza continue to live in poverty.

2023 Conflict

On October 7th 2023, Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel.

They killed more than 1000 people and took more than 200 hostages, including women and children. They also raped, tortured and burnt many women.

What was Israel’s response? Inevitably, Israel responded with a full scale attack on Hamas,with the intention of destroying Hamas.

The war between Israel and Hamas has been different from any other war in history. Israel has a fully equipped and trained, uniformed modern army with tanks and aircraft. Hamas has nothing similar. Their soldiers wear no uniforms and have no barracks. They use ordinary civilians, including women and children, as shields. They use schools, hospitals, mosques and churches as places to store weapons and house their soldiers.

Israel has been fighting an invisible enemy. How can Israel fight soldiers whom they cannot distinguished from ordinary civilians and who live in the same houses as their wives and children? Inevitably, large numbers of innocent civilians in Gaza, including women and children, have died.

Unlike any other country in history, Israel has frequently given warnings to the people of Gaza regarding where they were going to attack and warned the inhabitants to move to designated safe areas.

Both Israel and Hamas have been accused of committing war crimes, but there can be little doubt that those committed by Hamas have been far in excess of any committed by Israel.

The tragic sufferings of the Arab people of Gaza are entirely the consequences of the Satan-inspired murderous attack of Hamas on Israel on October 7th 2023.

Conclusion

For people who believe the Bible, there is only one conclusion. God chose the Jewish people and gave them the land of Israel, including the areas that are now called the West Bank and Gaza.

Throughout more than 3000 years, since God made his original promises to Israel, various countries and their leaders have contested God’s purposes and aimed to destroy the Jewish people and deprive them of their land.

Hamas is only the latest in the Satan-inspired attempts to destroy the Jewish people.

Many of these countries have themselves now disappeared from the map, but, thousands of years on, Israel can still sing “am Israel hai” - “the nation of Israel lives”.