Book Review

I just finished reading "Lords of the Land" by Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar. It really illuminated some of the issues surrounding the Israeli/Palestinian conflict (for lack of a better word).


From the jacket: “The 1967 Arab-Israeli war was a devastating triumph for Israel, which immediately began to establish settlements in the newly conquered territories. Those settlements, and the movement that made them possible, have utterly transformed Israel, but until now the full history of the occupation has never been told.”


The settlers are motivated not by a Zionism that calls for a Jewish homeland, but a religious Zionism that calls for a return of the Jews to the original lands given to them by God. Thus, the battle lines are drawn for the internal struggle of Jewish society and the future of the lands they have occupied since 1967. The book describes the Messianic character of the settlers and the complicity, sometimes intended sometimes motivated by the facts on the ground created by the settlers, of the government and the army. Jewish society spiritually supports the aims of the settlers, because it was those same aims that established them in the present day Jewish state. At the same time they realize that the aims of the settlers will never allow for the establishment of the two state solution and given the years of struggle they have went through most are willing to politically sacrifice the desires of the settlers to attain a peace with the Palestinians. The book written by authors who clearly see the settlers as the cause of all of their current problems lead us to a conclusion that their days are numbered despite the incredible success and influence they have had with all Israeli governments since the 1967 war.


The settlers see themselves as agents of Messianic theology that sees the re-establishment of the Jewish nation on the original lands promised to them by God in the Old Testament. Their faith allows them to see their victory as an established fact, if not now sometime in the future. Their faith aligns with our Christian faith that sees the re-establishment of the Israeli nation as a sign of the times. I had a conversation with Mr. Diouji, the patriarch of one of the Muslim families we got to know in Zambia. In that conversation he gave me his views on the war in Lebanon in the summer of 2006. He said he thought that eventually the Jews were going to colonize that entire area. When I asked him why he thought that, he said it was because those Arabs didn’t know how to get along with anyone and were always fighting among themselves. I told him that he just described two bible prophecies. Yes, eventually the Jews would reclaim the land and his description of the Arabs matches the description given to Ismael in: Gen 16:12 He shall be a wild man; His hand shall be against every man, And every man’s hand against him. And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren." NKJV


As I read the book I could feel the despair of the Palestinians. The idea of a national identity for Palestinians doesn’t have a 4000 year history like the Jews. They were given a nation in 1948 just like the Jews. They quickly lost it to the Jordanians who annexed Arab Palestine. Before that they were governed by the British while the Jewish population began to grow. Before that they were governed by the Turks who treated all of the Arabs under the Ottoman Empire as second class citizens. So now they are being propped up by the international community as this historic fact with no history to back up the myth. They have been defeated and occupied by the Jews and abandoned by the Muslim world. They live a life that, despite all of the talk of a two nation solution, is being squeezed by this infiltration by Jewish settlers into their lands. Maybe there will be a political solution that ends the settlements as they were ended in Gaza. Maybe not, we will see.


I side with the settlers, not because of them but because of what the bible says. Just like a man living in the 1800’s would have to say that someday there would be a Jewish nation centered around Jerusalem even when there were no Jews there (the Ottoman Empire did not allow Jews to live in Jerusalem) by faith. I, by faith, know that someday, someway the state of Israel will eventually have more than just military control over the lands the Jews call Samaria and Judea despite the Palestinian majorities of today. We will see.


About hansston

Pastor a church in Sparta.
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