• OPINION \ Apr 19, 2019
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    Biblical perspective on today’s Israel and justice - By Shukri Habibi
Biblical perspective on today’s Israel and justice - By Shukri Habibi

During a morning meditation period in a Christian organization, a colleague of mine talked about the need to stand against abortion. Then he surprised me by saying “Even in the State of Israel, abortion is permitted”. This was during the first Intifada in the occupied Palestinian territories. The State of Israel, according to my colleague, is the state of God’s people, so how can they allow abortion? I started asking myself: how can he reach this conclusion while ignoring what is actually happening in the occupied territories and where is the principle of justice which is clearly stated in the pages of the Bible? When my turn came, I explained to others the error that our colleague had made. In his arguments he did not consider the killing of living children among the Palestinians, nor the forceful occupation of the land and the building of settlements.

It seems obvious to me that there is a great contradiction between the theological position which believes that current day Israel is God’s fulfillment of His promises to the Jews and the issue of justice in the Bible; specifically, with regard to the great injustice done to the Palestinians. What is important to those who hold that position is the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament in the manner in which they interpret them, which is both literalistic and distorted. They ignore the fact that these prophecies spoke of the return of the tribe of Judah or the Jews from the Babylonian exile, while awaiting the coming of the Messiah the savior and king. Indeed, the Jews returned from captivity, and the Messiah, the savior and king, came and proclaimed the kingdom of God, and the pious remnant of the Jewish people believed in him. When we properly understand the teaching of the New Testament, we realize that their claims which include that 1-the people of Israel as a whole rejected Christ, 2-God had changed his plan and, 3-God has postponed his project for the people of Israel, are baseless claims.

I have elaborated on this topic in a series of articles in the past. Today I will focus on the issue of justice. The Bible, especially in the Old Testament, emphasizes the need for justice in all spheres. Moses once said “I will proclaim the name of the Lord. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he” (1).

And God asked the people of Israel in the past to keep away from evil and do justice, and warned against injustice and unfairness (2). The prophet Isaiah wrote, “See how the faithful city has become a prostitute! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her—but now murderers!” (3). And the prophet Ezekiel wrote “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: You have gone far enough, princes of Israel! Give up your violence and oppression and do what is just and right. Stop dispossessing my people, declares the Sovereign Lord” (4).

Perhaps the most important reference to our subject today is when God asked the Children of Israel to treat strangers in their midst like themselves: “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (5). I wonder what position those interpreters hold on this clear text? The Palestinians today are not strangers, but the legitimate owners whose land was taken from them; they were expelled, attacked, deprived of dignity, and besieged every day in their own cities and villages. They still live in their land which is under occupation according to what is agreed upon by international laws. How can we evaluate this issue when we talk about justice for the Palestinian cause as a whole? Is it reasonable for the just God to overlook Israel's clear crimes, which stand against all humanity and not only against the Palestinian people? As for the wars of the Old Testament, God condemned people through Israel, but later condemned Israel itself when it committed evil.

Moreover, God did not allow King David to build the temple in ancient times. The reason was not because of David’s well-known heinous sin, but because he shed so much blood. David said to his son Solomon, “My son, I had it in my heart to build a house for the Name of the Lord my God. But this word of the Lord came to me: ‘You have shed much blood and have fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight’” (6).

Did not the Lord also condemn Ahab and his wife Jezebel when they killed Naboth the Jezreelite and stole his field? (7) The wise king Salomon once wrote in Ecclesiastes: “If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still” (8).

What does God say to Israel today, which took the land by force, uprooted its people, practiced injustice, and shed the blood of many? And what do those interpreters who defend Israel and its occupation of the land say? Where is justice in all this? Why don’t we hear one of them denouncing what Israel is doing? Is the fulfillment of prophecies according to their interpretation, knowing that all prophecies were already fulfilled in the coming of Christ, more important than their quest for justice and the condemnation of injustice? As Christians who believe in the truth of the bible, we have the duty to defend justice and human rights, not only with regard to Israel but also for the whole world.

(1) Deuteronomy 32:3-4
(2) We read in Leviticus 19:15 “You are not to be unjust in deciding a case. You are not to show partiality to the poor or honor the great. Instead, decide the case of your neighbor with righteousness.” In the same vein, the prophet Isaiah wrote: “For his is what the Lord says: ‘Maintain justice, and do what is right’” (Isa. 56:1)
(3) Isaiah 1:21
(4) Ezekiel 45:9
(5) Leviticus 19:33-34
(6) 1st Chronicles 22:7-8
(7) 1st Kings 21
(8) Ecclesiastes 5:8