Last issue we introduced the idea that throughout history there have been many lies employed against the Jewish people, and we undertook to examine some of the current lies collated by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre. In this article we look at the first of those lies.

Lie # 1

Israel was created by European guilt over the Nazi Holocaust. Why should Palestinians pay the price?

Simon Wiesenthal Centre response

Three thousand years before the Holocaust, before there was a Roman Empire, Israel’s kings and prophets walked the streets of Jerusalem. The whole world knows that Isaiah did not speak his prophecies from Portugal, nor Jeremiah his lamentations from France. Revered by its people, Jerusalem is mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures 600 times – but not once in the Koran. Throughout its 2,000-year exile there was a continuous Jewish presence in the Holy Land, with the modern rebirth of Israel beginning in the 1800s. Reclamation of the largely vacant land by pioneering Zionists blossomed into a Jewish majority long before the onset of Nazism.

After the Holocaust, nearly 200,000 Shoah survivors found haven in the Jewish State, created by a two-thirds vote of the UN in 1947. Soon 800,000 Jews fleeing persecution in Arab countries arrived. In ensuing decades, Israel absorbed one million immigrants from the Soviet Union and thousands of Ethiopian Jews. Today, far from being a vestige of European guilt or colonialism, Israel is a diverse, cosmopolitan society, fulfilling the age-old dream of a people’s journey and ‘Return to Zion’: their ancient homeland.

Biblical perspective

When was Israel created?

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre response accurately states that the nation of Israel existed long before the 20th century. This fact is often disputed by Palestinians despite the evidence of history and archaeology. It is only in a modern legal sense that Israel was created in 1947. Prior to this time, Palestine was under the British Mandate and before that, part of the Ottoman Empire. The people living in Palestine were not a separate nation per se.

During the British Mandate of Palestine (1920–1948) two major groups arose. The first was formed by Jews and fostered Zionist ideals that had been growing since the 1800s. This group encouraged Jews to migrate to Palestine and establish a homeland. The second group included Arabs who had lived in the land prior to British occupation and who did not support the formation of a Jewish homeland.

Did European guilt play a role in Israel’s creation?

When the British withdrew from Palestine, the United Nations Resolution 181 was passed bringing into existence the land of Israel. The resolution was opposed by most Arab nations and supported by many European nations. It may be true that guilt over the Holocaust compelled European nations to support the UN partition plan of Israel. However, it is unlikely that the same guilt compelled Britain to withdraw from Palestine. European guilt may have contributed to the formation of Israel, but like all political decisions there were many contributing factors; guilt was only part of the equation.

Prophecy fulfilled in the creation of Israel

The Bible clearly states that Jews would inhabit the land of Israel in the last days. It speaks about the Jews returning to their land after a period of absence. The prophecies speak about the recreation of the nation of Israel. This implies that non-Jews living in the land at the time of restoration would be dispossessed.

Methods God uses to fulfil prophecy

God uses many methods to fulfil prophecy. We know that each individual is given freedom to make decisions, yet God is able to see the future and influence events to ensure His purpose unfolds. God prophesied that the Jews would reinhabit the land of Israel before the return of Christ (Zech 12:2-3, 10; Ezek 39:25-27), so we can be sure His hand worked to fulfil this prophecy. Jeremiah speaks about fishers and hunters which would coax and compel Jewish migration to Israel (Jer 16:16). Zionism coaxed Jews to return to the land, while the Holocaust compelled them to return. God’s mechanism for establishing the land of Israel may have included European guilt as a driving force.

What price was paid for the creation of Israel and who paid it?

The Jewish people obtained possession of the land of Israel by inhabiting vacant land, by purchase, and in some cases, by evicting the Arabs who lived there. The Palestinians object to Jewish possession of the land because it was acquired without their consent. While this argument is valid, it is simply not true to state that this applies to all areas of the land. Some Palestinians lost their land without consent while others did not. No doubt other peoples paid a price when the Palestinians originally took possession of the land.

Who owns the land?

The Israeli-Palestinian debate revolves around land ownership and possession. Ultimately, God owns the land of Israel (Lev 25:23). God has transferred ownership of the land as an inheritance to the descendants of Abraham (Gen 15:7-8; Josh 21:43-45). While the Jews may own the land of Israel, it has been possessed by a series of people throughout time. In most cases, possession by right of conquest has been interpreted as ownership.

The Palestinian people argue that their possession of the land prior to 1947 entitles them to ownership. This argument is difficult to sustain. There is always a nation that can claim prior possession, and the argument becomes a spiral backwards into history. Ultimately, the question becomes: Who possessed the land of Israel first? This is almost impossible to answer and establishing a credible link to contemporary nations is even more difficult. The conflict can have no immediate resolution.

Possession or stewardship?

We may be far from the debate between Jews and Arabs over the land of Israel, but the principle behind the conflict is near to all of us. Conflict arises when we focus on personal ownership and possession. God is far more interested in the principle of stewardship. Everything we possess is owned by God and has been entrusted to us for a time. Ours is not to seek eternal possession of material things, but to use what we have as faithful stewards. Ultimately the Promised Land will be the eternal possession of Abraham and his seed: as the Apostle Paul explains, “For as many of you as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ … And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:27, 29).