The Deed To The Land 1

 

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The Deed to the Land - Part One

 

There are few modern issues that have caused as much debate, anger, and conflict as the question of who rightfully owns the land of Canaan. What makes this debate particularly unique is that it is being fought on two fronts; the secular and sacred. The Bible will be the ultimate authority in this matter and we will take the time to cover its testimony in the weeks to come. This week, however, I want to take the time to address the debate itself to bring greater clarity to the complexity of this matter. 

The Secular Side of the Debate

This side of the debate is focused around Israel and its relationship to the Palestinians and the land of Canaan. Is Israel guilty of stealing the homes and lands of the Palestinians keeping them in dire poverty or is the Palestinian problem the product of other forces? 

1) The Arab Position: As I address this I am speaking of the Arab position in general and not indicating that all Arabs necessarily hold to this position. it has been the Arab position that the land of Canaan was stolen from them by the League of Nations, the British, the United Nations and ultimately, the Jewish people. 

a. The Arab ownership of the land. The Arabs argue that the land became theirs around the 7th Century AD and remained as such until the British took control after WWI. The Ottoman Empire, being part of the Axis in WWI which lost the war, was forced by the League of Nations to surrender control of the land of Canaan to the British Empire. Though the British had authority to rule over this land, this land never officially belonged to the British Empire. The Empire acted more in the role of steward of the land until a later time when a decision would be made as what type of government or state would be established. During this period of time, though the Arabs possessed the greater share of the land, more and more of the land was being purchased by Jewish interests abroad for the establishment of Jewish settlements in the land. In 1947, following the holocaust in Germany, it was decided by the UN to divide the Land of Canaan into two parts. One which would establish a home land and country for the Jewish people and the other for the Arabs living in the land. 

From the Arab point of view, this land, regardless of the UN decree, ultimately belonged solely to the Arab people. One must understand that Muslim law indicates that any land which the Muslim Arab takes possession of belongs to their god and becomes his land forever. To loose land belonging to their god is to fail their god, an unforgivable sin. To add to this sentiment was the fact that the 3rd most holy site of the Muslim faith was located next to the land now governed by Israel. This was unthinkable in the mind of the Muslim/Arab. The strife started in Abraham’s family between Ishmael (Arab) and Isaac (Jew) was still raising its ugly head 4000 years later in the actions of their descendents.

b. The Palestinian Issue. The problem over the Palestinian issue has been blamed by the Arabs on the occupation of the land by Israel. In the Arab mind Israel is responsible for the displacement of the Palestinians which has resulted in their poverty stricken condition. To add to the Arab contention is the fact that due to wars started by the surrounding Arab nations, Israel has seized, through battle , additional Arab land which was originally given them by the UN in 1947. This can be seen in the recent strife over Israel’s establishment of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

The truth of who has created the Palestinian problem can be easily answered by a review of history. In 1948, the Arab nations that surrounded the land of Canaan were angered by the UN’s establishment of a Jewish nation. They therefore determined to destroy the nation before it had an opportunity to become established. The cry of “push all the Jews into the Sea” expressed the Arab sentiment. Since this move would require military force, the Arab nations encouraged their Palestinian brothers to temporarily leave the land for their own protection. These Palestinian Arabs were promised a place to live once all the Jews had been destroyed. Many Arabs chose to heed this advice and left their homes, their lands, and their businesses to take up temporary residence among the Arab nations that surrounded Canaan. It should be noted at this point that many Arabs chose to stay in the land under the rule of the Israeli government. These Arabs and their possessions were protected by the Israelis during the ensuing war. 

The war was engaged in 1948 and Israel not only defeated their Arab attackers but gained additional land through the conflict establishing Israeli independence. Having lost the war, the Palestinian Arab people who had temporarily left the land now found themselves without a home. The Arab nations that encouraged them to leave the land of Canaan now ordered them to return to Canaan. With their land, homes, and business gone and the available land for Arab population sizably diminished, the Palestinians found themselves displaced and enduring poverty like conditions. The ill fated decision they had made in joining with the Arab aggressors would now haunt them for generations leading to civil war, unrest, and devastating conflicts with Israel. Those Arabs who had stayed in the land of Canaan during the war continued on as equal citizens of Israel with equal rights and opportunities.

The Palestinian problem therefore was the making of the Arab people not the Jews. If these people had not left their lands and homes in 1948 at the bidding of their Arab “brothers” there would be no Palestinian problem today. Likewise, if the Arab attackers had let these people join their countries there would not be a Palestinian issue today. The oil rich Arab nations care nothing for their Palestinian brothers. They only pretend to care because they can use it as a thorn in the flesh of Israel. They are quick to provide the Palestinians with weapons but rarely if ever do they provide them with the humanitarian support necessary for a complete economical recovery. 

2) The World Position: It is common knowledge that the UN and many nations of the world believe that Israel has seized control of portions of the land of Canaan that were never granted to them in the 1947 dispersement of the land. They likewise believe that the Palestinian problem can also be traced to Israel and its ill treatment of the Arab Palestinian. An excellent example of this is in a recent report which falsely puts blames Israel for its actions in 2008 in the Gaza. This was reported in the April 4th edition of the Fox News Channel website.

“Israel and its supporters in the U.S. are demanding the recall of a scathing report about Israel's actions in Gaza in 2008 after the head of a U.N. investigative group admitted last week that he failed to weigh information that cleared Israel of intentionally killing civilians.

Richard Goldstone, the South African judge who authored the U.N. Fact-Finding Mission on Gaza, or what became known as the Goldstone Report, wrote in an op-ed published in The Washington Post Friday that subsequent investigations "indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted (by Israel) as a matter of policy." 

"If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document," he wrote, still blaming Israel for being uncooperative in the investigation. 

Nonetheless, the admission is a startling reversal from the most severe charge that showed up in the 2009 report -- one that was used by Israel's foes to accuse the country of deliberately disregarding Palestinian life. Last month, the Human Rights Council voted for the General Assembly to ask the U.N. Security Council to submit the document to prosecutors at the International Criminal Court so it could bring war crimes charges against Israel.” http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/04/04/investigator-admits-shortcomings-israel-supporters-push-recall-gaza-report/?test=latestnews

Because of this bias against Israel, the world has put a great deal of pressure upon the Israeli government for not returning seized lands such as the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority. Recently much has been written about the UN’s concern regarding Israel’s decision to allow Israeli homes and settlements to be built in the West Bank.

There are several things that this world view on Israel does not take into consideration. Let me state them here briefly.

a. The land seized by Israel has always been a result of wars that have been started by Israel’s Arab enemies. These wars were not started due to a threat from Israel but out of a desire to eliminate the Jewish population in Canaan and to seize the land for Arab occupation. When one enters a war on this basis, one must always accept the reality that the enemy may win and land will be lost to the enemy in the process. For example in the 1967 war, Israel seized control of the Sinai from Egypt and the Golan Heights from Syria. Following the war, Israel offered to return the land if these nations would agree to a peace agreement. Egypt did and regained the Sinai but Syria refused and has never regained the Golan Heights.

b. Israel, like any nation, has a right to defend itself. If the nation has been repeatedly attacked by the same enemies, it has the right to seize and occupy land that will provide it a barrier for its protection. Israel has had to do this very thing with the building of fences for protection from the Palestinians in Gaza and other Settlements.

c. The world as a whole does not recognize the authority of the Bible. Without the promise of a deed as spoken of in the Bible, the world must deal with these issues as they would any boundary issue. In such a system, occupation is more important than who has the God given deed to the land.

The Sacred Side of the Debate

There are at least two groups of people who believe Israel has no part in this land based on religious grounds. Since this will be covered in greater detail later I will only make allusions to it at this point.

1) The Arab Position: It is the belief of the Muslim Arab people that the promise God made to Abraham concerning ownership of the land of Canaan was passed on down through His oldest son Ishmael rather than his younger son Isaac. It has always been tradition that the oldest son gets the majority of the inheritance and so Ishmael would be rightful owner. Since the Arabs are the descendents of Ishmael, they have the deed to the land. There are in this view a couple of problems.

a) Though it was tradition that the oldest son received the inheritance it was not law. There were times when a younger son would get that honor as in the case of Joseph who was given the inheritance which his father announced by giving him the coat of many colors. Likewise, Jacob was the younger son of Isaac but received the inheritance.

b) The Scriptures are clear that God transferred this covenant to Isaac and then to Jacob and his sons. God spoke to each generation directly and thus gave the land to them and their descendents.

2) The Replacement Christian Position: In speaking of this position I am not addressing all Christians but rather to those who hold to replacement theology. To many reading this, replacement theology is probably a new term. Beginning at the end of the 3rd Century, there was a growing movement with in the Church that believed that God had taken back His promises to Israel because Israel had rejected Jesus as their Messiah/Savior. In replacement of Israel, God established a Church and His promises made to Israel would now be fulfilled spiritually in the Church. Those who hold to this position believe Israel has forfeited their deed or right to the land of Canaan. Some of who hold to this position are the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches.

3) The Dispensation Christian Position: it is held by these Christians that the covenant made with Israel was unconditional and eternal in nature. Therefore, whether Israel occupies the land, it always belongs to her as God has given her the deed to the land.

This gives an overview of the conflict that is being waged over Israel’s right to exist as a nation in the land of Canaan. Next time we will go to the Scriptures and see what God has to say on this matter.