This is the second of a two-part series under this title. The first part appeared in the previous issue of The Lampstand, Volume 9 No 5

Many of the leaders of the Palestinian movement today were born outside the land. Yasser Arafat and Edward Said, a leading Palestinian academic, for instance, were born and educated in Cairo. Their birth certificates and school records are available for inspection. Yet both of these men now claim that they were born in Jerusalem in a deliberate attempt falsely to bolster the Palestinian myth.

Rewriting History

Although not born in Jerusalem Yasser Arafat does have family connections with the Holy Land. One of his uncles was Mufti of Jerusalem in the 1930ʼs. That Moslem leaderʼs support for Adolf Hitler and the Nazis and his opposition to the British and the Jews was so strong that the British were forced to exile him to Mauritius.

And it is not just his childhood about which Mr Arafat is deceitful. On the PLOʼs official website documents are presented in English, Arabic and Hebrew. Yassar Arafatʼs CV in Arabic is much shorter than it is in English and Hebrew. The English and Hebrew versions of his CV include a number of entries about his involvement in key stages of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Those entries do not appear in the Arabic version! Apparently they do not expect that people will compare the versions. It is indicative of the corrupt nature of the Palestinian leadership that they would expect to get away with such blatant rewriting of history.

Even more distressing, perhaps, and with more far reaching potential, are attempts by the Palestinians to redefine Christianity. For some years there has been a program to promote the “Palestinianisation” of Jesus. Yasser Arafat has described Jesus Christ as “the first Palestinian revolutionary”. In July, at a three-day conference in Bethlehem to promote this cause, Christians who support Israelʼs right to exist were condemned as astray from the faith. The conference president even drew a link between the return of Jesus from Egypt as a child with the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

Palestinian Autonomy

Regardless of the fact that the Palestinians are a mythical race and that their claim to a homeland is baseless, the world accepts they have a right to self-determination. Even Israel accepts that a Palestinian state is desirable. On 4 June a peace summit was held at Aqaba, hosted by Jordanʼs King Abdullah and attended by US President George Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazan. At that summit Ariel Sharon said: “It is in Israelʼs interest not to govern the Palestinians, but for the Palestinians to govern themselves in their own state”.

Had the Palestinians accepted what was offered at Camp David in July 2000 it is likely that an independent Palestinian state would now exist on much of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Several places in the West Bank have strategic value for Israel, and negotiations for a Palestinian state under the Oslo Agreement were hampered by Israeli attempts to retain control of certain key strategic sites. There is no reason to expect that it will be any different under the road map to peace. At present, however, the Israeli Government says that it has no wish to annex all of the West Bank. Some extremist Jews vow that they will never give up the West Bank, but that is not the Israeli governmentʼs position. In fact, in October 2002 it began dismantling some of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank of which it does not approve, and immediately after signing up to the road map in June it moved against further settlements.

The Gaza Strip is another story. It is home to over 1,000,000 Arabs and only 7,000 Jews and has little strategic value. It is an environmental and economic wasteland. Whatever happens in relation to Palestinian independence, the road map or the West Bank, there is no incentive for Israel to take over or annex the Gaza Strip. Continuing Palestinian autonomy in some form, then, seems assured for the time being.

Peaceful Co-existence?

Can we expect peace with the Palestinians? The short answer appears to be no, at least in the long term. There is diminishing goodwill on the part of Israel, and no goodwill on the part of the Arabs, on which to draw when negotiating peaceful co-existence. Most Palestinians remain openly hostile to Israel.

The PLO is, after all, the PALESTINE Liberation Organisation, not the West Bank and Gaza Strip liberation organisation. The true aspirations of the Palestinians are no secret. The PLO charter, which in spite of promises to the contrary has never been amended, calls for the “elimination of Zionism in Palestine” (article 15) and requires Palestine to have “the boundaries it had during the British mandate” (article 2). The al-Fatah faction of Mr Arafat is the dominant grouping in the PLO. Its constitution also is strongly anti-Israel, declaring that “this struggle will not cease unless the Zionist state is demolished and Palestine is completely liberated”. The charter of Hamas is even blunter. It calls for the slaughter of the Jews (article 7) and declares: “There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time” (article 13).

There is long tradition of Arab opposition to a Jewish state in the Holy Land. In 1946, two years before Israel was founded, Haj Amin el Husseini, Grand Muslim Mufti, proclaimed, “Allah has bestowed upon us the rare privilege of finishing what Hitler only began. Let the jihad begin. Murder the Jews. Murder them all”. In January 1993 Ibrahim Ghousha, a Hamas leader said, “Fighting the Jews and Israel is a religious obligation and a divine duty”. The following year, after the signing of the Oslo Agreement, Abbas Zaki, a member of the PLO Executive admitted, “The peace accord is only a cease-fire until the next stage in the armed struggle. There is no decision in Fatah to end the armed struggle against the occupation”. In an interview in April 1998 Yassar Arafat confirmed that the PLO is not committed to the Oslo Pact under which they supposedly were negotiating a peace treaty with Israel, describing it as a “temporary truce”, thereby implying that hostilities would be resumed at a later stage.

These are not the sentiments of people with whom you could expect to bring the road map to peace to a successful conclusion. The PLO tells the West it is interested in peace, but simultaneously it indoctrinates its children with a gospel of hatred and violence towards Israel. Official video clips are produced encouraging children to become martyrs to the cause of destroying Israel. Some of these have been running on Palestinian television in the weeks since the road map was announced. Textbooks used in Palestinian schools routinely omit any reference to Israel and are vehicles for anti-Semitic rhetoric. One book entitled “Our Country Palestine”, prepared for sixth grade children in the 2000–01 school year, openly proclaims on its title page, “There is no alternative to destroying Israel”.

Since the road map was announced Palestinian hostility has been maintained, and it continues to target the rising generation. On 29 June the Jerusalem Post reported that Palestinians are still using anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic textbooks. One book describes the Sea of Galilee as the most important of Palestineʼs water sources. A new year six book “Reading the Koran” tells children about a warning to the Jews that, because of their evil, Allah will kill them: “…Oh you who are Jews … long for death if you are truthful … for the death from which you flee, that will surely overtake you”. During school vacations the indoctrination continues. On 18 July an official Palestinian newspaper, Al-Ayyam, reported that about 100 girls had attended a summer camp in Kalkiliya named after “Shahida [died for Allah] Wafa Idris”, the first female suicide bomber to attack Israel.

The hostile images, words and policies of the Palestinian administration are not designed to engender peaceful coexistence. This is a culture that teaches its children to hate and even aspire to become suicide bombers. Even when Palestinian leaders appear to support cooperation with Israel the words they use often mislead the unwary. From time to time, for instance, there are reports of Palestinian leaders “condemning” suicide bombers who launch attacks in Israel. They will say something like “we condemn attacks upon innocent civilians”. To most people in the West that seems a straightforward statement, but the Palestinian public realise that their leaders do not regard Israelis as “innocent civilians”. All Israelis are, in their eyes, active members of a hostile occupying force. Since the road map to peace was announced, the Palestinian leadership has made calls for an end to terrorist atrocities, but always on the basis that they damage the Palestinian cause rather than that they are wrong in principle. In the Hamas statement on 29 June in which it committed to a ceasefire in its terrorist campaign, it said it was agreeing to the ceasefire “to prevent the enemy from creating pretexts to ignite division; to affirm our peopleʼs legitimate right to resist the occupation as a strategic choice until the Zionist occupation of our land ends and until all our national rights are regained”. Hardly the words of pacifists! We know from the charters of the Palestinian groups what they mean when they speak of occupied Palestine.

Palestinians in Prophecy

It is an amazing thing that although the Palestinian people are an invention of the last forty years the prophets appear to have anticipated their influence at the time of the end in at least two places.

Joel 3 is a parallel passage to Ezekiel 38. Verse 4 suggests that at the time of the northern invasion forces based in current Palestinian strongholds will harass Israel. Earlier we looked at Joel 3:4: “Yea, and what have ye to do with me, O Tyre, and Zidon, and all the coasts of Palestine [RV, NKJV and NIV ʻPhilistiaʼ]. Will ye render me a recompense? And if ye recompense me, swiftly and speedily will I return your recompense upon your own head.”

Joel refers to “Tyre and Zidon, and all the coasts of Palestine”, or Philistia. Tyre and Sidon are cities in southern Lebanon and are well-known strong holds of Palestinian extremists and their supporters. The coasts of Philistia equate today to the Gaza Strip. Gaza was one of the five chief cities of the Philistines. Israel is already subject to attacks from these places and it would be consistent with their current behaviour for Palestinians based in these regions to take advantage of the Gogian invasion to step up hostilities. Joel suggests that forces based in these regions will harass Israel when the northern invasion occurs. Many Palestinians celebrated when Iraqi missiles hit Israel during the 1991 Gulf War. We also saw unedifying scenes of rejoicing in these same territories after the September 11 attacks in 2001. It is not hard to imagine these people taking advantage of Israelʼs distress when the northern invader sweeps down. The geography of verse 4 is explicit: it clearly identifies territory now under the control of the Palestinians or forces sympathetic to the Palestinians.

Another key passage is Ezekiel 28:20–26. Ezekiel 28:21 draws attention specifically to Zidon. Verses 24–26 then speak of a period when Israelʼs immediate neighbours, those “round about  them” (verses 24 and 26), are troubling Israel, and that harassment only comes to an end when God intervenes to overturn Israelʼs enemies.

The phrase “round about them” is significant. In Deuteronomy 6:14 the same phrase is used of the close neighbours of Israel, people with whom they might interact on a daily basis. In Ezekiel 28 these people around Israel harass her up until the time her Messiah manifests himself in the earth. These close neighbours are described as “pricking briers” and “thorns” in verse 24. That language also is reminiscent of words from Israelʼs past. In Numbers 33:55 God warned Israel that the Gentile nations of the land would become “pricks” and “thorns” to them. In Joshua 23:13 similar language is used of the nations who occupied parts of the Holy Land when Israel was seeking to establish itself in the land. In the twentieth century we have seen that history repeat itself.

When Israel first attained independence, all her neighbours could have been called “pricking briers” and “thorns”. They certainly “despised” Israel, as Ezekiel 28:24 says, and all of them invaded Israel as soon as she declared independence. In 1979 Egypt signed a peace treaty and is now at peace (admittedly half-heartedly) with Israel. In 1994 peace was achieved with Jordan.

Peace might have been achieved with Egypt and Jordan, but some of the “pricking briars” and “thorns” remain. Since late 2000 Israel has been subjected to a spate of suicide bombers infiltrating from Palestinian controlled areas. Rockets have even been fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon. Palestinian militants have infiltrated Israel via Lebanon to fire on Israeli citizens driving near Israelʼs northern border. Southern Lebanon is a haven for the Hezbollah guerilla organisation and a base from which they launch attacks upon Israel. Ezekiel 28:26 says that these briars and thorns shall only disappear when Israel recognises and submits to God; in other words when God delivers Israel through the intervention of Christ. Israel has previously invaded and occupied southern Lebanon in an attempt to root out these irritants and might do so again in the future. The briars and thorns, however, seem likely to remain until that time, and this is consistent with the image in Joel 3 of harassment from Palestinian controlled areas coinciding with the northern invasion. So the Palestinians have their place in prophecy, albeit less than glorious, and we must conclude that whatever limited success the road map to peace or any other peace process might enjoy, it can only ever be temporary.